by Walter Dew
"The Hunt for Jack the Ripper" comprised one-third of Walter Dew's memoirs, I Caught Crippen (1938). Dew offers a lengthy overview of the case from Emma Smith to Frances Coles. He includes his own personal recollections of various scenes, including the arrest of "Squibby" and his initial reactions to the Mary Kelly crime scene.
FOR JACK THE RIPPER
FOR JACK THE RIPPER
In writing of the "Jack the Ripper crimes", it must be remembered that they took place fifty years ago, and it may be that small errors as to dates and days may have crept in.
IN the early part of 1887 I was transferred to the " H ", or Whitechapel Division of the Metropolitan Police, and attached to Commercial Street Police Station.
From Paddington and Bayswater I was sent to a district which, even before the advent of Jack the Ripper, a year later, had a reputation for vice and villainy unequalled anywhere in the British Isles.
I had attained my first ambition as a police officer, being now a member of the famous Criminal Investigation Department - a detective officer.
But the natural elation with which I viewed my promotion was tempered by my knowledge of the neighbourhood to which I had been sent to win my detective's "spurs".
I knew that I might have to spend many years there. For myself I did not care so much. My chief concern arose from the fact that I had just married, and the thought of taking my wife to live in that hot-bed of crime filled me with foreboding.
Whitechapel, Spitalfields and Shoreditch were now my hunting-ground, with hundreds of criminals of the worst type as my quarry.
I knew Whitechapel pretty well by the time the first of the atrocious murders, afterwards attributed to Jack the Ripper, took place. And I remained there until his orgy of motiveless killing came to an end.
All his victims were women of the unfortunate class. Some of them had known better days.
There were no lower depths to which these hapless women could sink.
Why did the Ripper choose them as his victims? I do not know. This is one of the questions which will never now be answered.
Few of them were pretty or young. Indeed, with one exception, all the women lured by the killer to their deaths were approaching or past middle age.
The exception was Marie Kelly, aged between 20 and 25 and quite attractive. I knew Marie quite well by sight. Often I had seen her parading along Commercial Street, between Flower-and-Dean Street and Aldgate, or along Whitechapel Road. She was usually in the company of two or three of her kind, fairly neatly dressed and invariably wearing a clean white apron, but no hat.
Marie Kelly was the most horribly mutilated of all Jack the Ripper's victims. I know because I was the first police officer on the scene of that ghastly crime in Miller's Court, a cul-de-sac off Dorset Street.
What I saw when I pushed back an old coat and peeped through a broken pane of glass into the sordid little room which Kelly called her home, was too harrowing to be described. It remains with me - and always will remain - as the most gruesome memory of the whole of my police career.
After the lapse of so many years I find it difficult to say just when the name of Jack the Ripper became associated with the Whitechapel murders, but it was certainly in the early days of the mystery.
The name originated from the messages chalked on the walls, and the many letters received by the police and others bearing this terrifying signature. It fitted, and because it fitted, it stuck. Even to this day it lives in the minds of many as a symbol of fear and horror.
I feel I must say a few words in defence of the police - of whom I was one - who were severely criticized for their failure to hunt down the wholesale murderer. There are still those who look upon the Whitechapel murders as one of the most ignominious police failures of all time.
Failure it certainly was, but I have never regarded it other than an honourable failure.
Let us take a quick look at the men upon whom the responsibilities of the great man-hunt chiefly fell.
The officers sent from Scotland Yard were Chief-Inspector Moore, Inspector Abberline and Inspector Andrews, assisted, of course, by a large number of officers of subordinate rank.
In addition to them was Detective-Inspector Reid, the local chief, who worked under the direction of his colleagues from the Yard.
Looking back to that period, and assisted in my judgment by the wideness of my own experience since, I am satisfied that no better or more efficient men could have been chosen.
Chief-Inspector Moore was a huge figure of a man, as strong minded as he was powerful physically. He had much experience behind him, and was in every way a thoroughly reliable and painstaking officer.
Inspector Abberline was portly and gentle speaking. The type of police officer - and there have been many - who might easily have been mistaken for the manager of a bank or a solicitor. He also was a man who had proved himself in many previous big cases.
His strong suit was his knowledge of crime and criminals in the East End, for he had been for many years the detective-inspector of the Whitechapel Division, or as it was called then the "Local Inspector". Inspector Abberline was my chief when I first went to Whitechapel. He left only on promotion to the Yard, to the great regret of myself and others who had served under him. No question at all of Inspector Abberline's abilities as a criminal hunter.
Inspector Andrews was a jovial, gentlemanly man, with a fine personality and a sound knowledge of his job.
These three men did everything humanly possible to free Whitechapel of its Terror. They failed because they were up against a problem the like of which the world had never known, and I fervently hope, will never know again.
There was criticism, too, of the Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department, Sir Robert Anderson, and the Chief Commissioner, Sir Charles Warren, later of Spion Kop fame. This was equally undeserved.
It would be futile to attempt to tell the full story of the Ripper crimes without first giving a picture of the neighbourhood in which they were committed. Whitechapel in those days was full of slums in which vice of all kinds was rampant. Sordid narrow streets, still narrower courts, filthy and practically unlighted.
Woe betide any innocent wayfarer venturing alone down any of those dark and sinister passages.
So bad was the reputation of Flower-and-Dean Street that it was always "double-patrolled " by the police. A single constable would have been lucky to reach the other end unscathed.
Happily, Whitechapel is a different place to-day.
You would look in vain now for Dorset Street. It is still there, but under another name. The street came into such ill-repute after the Miller's Court murder that the authorities decided, apparently, that it no longer deserved to be called after such a delightful county.
One of the greatest problems of the police in the bad old days were organized gangs. Lawless characters banded together, and under some fancy name went about robbing and blackmailing honest tradesmen, assaulting innocent pedestrians, garrotting and fleecing drunken sailors, and preying upon the defenceless foreign element, chiefly poor Polish Jews.
In most cases the attacks would be so sudden that the victim never saw the faces of his assailants, and even if he did he was more often than not too scared to give any assistance to the police.
There were other gangs who made their homes in Whitechapel and operated elsewhere. One such was the "Blind Beggar Mob", a title derived from a public-house in the Mile End Road at which they used to meet.
The "Blind Beggars" were not quite the mean thieves I have described. There is snobbery even among thieves, and these swell mobsmen, who carried on their criminal operations in the West End and the provinces, would have resented being classed with the crooks who confined themselves to the East End.
Crime was rampant, but it did not go unchecked. A study of the Old Bailey calendar of the time would confirm this. I had the pleasure of seeing scores of them sentenced to long terms of imprisonment and lashes with the cat.
I say I saw this with pleasure, for had I not seen the suffering of many of their victims?
If the criminals were known to the detectives, the detectives were also known to the criminals. We were all given nicknames, some of them very apt.
A sergeant named Thick, who was a holy terror to the local law-breakers, was known as "Johnny Upright", because he was very upright both in his walk and in his methods.
A detective named Gaunter was nicknamed "Tommy Roundhead", and he certainly had an unusually round head.
Another was always spoken of as "The Russian". He had a very thick, long auburn beard which I am afraid must have been a severe handicap when he was struggling with a prisoner.
My own nickname was "Blue Serge", simply because when I arrived in the division I invariably wore a suit of that material.
Then there was "The Shah", one of the most picturesque personalities ever to patrol the criminal haunts of Whitechapel.
I have seen it stated that there were some parts of the East End the police themselves were afraid to penetrate. Rubbish!
I could recount story after story of single police officers walking calmly into the very dens of the gangs and claiming their men.
In every district you will find at least one police officer who can and does do this with impunity. The Shah did it repeatedly. He was a finely built man with jet black hair and moustache, one of the best-looking police officers I have ever seen. It was his appearance which had earned him his nickname.
He knew everyone. Everyone knew him. If you said to him, "Ginger Jim is wanted for 'snatchin''. Bring him in if you see him," the odds were that when you returned to the police station Ginger Jim would be there.
The Shah seemed to bear a charmed life. He went alone into places of the utmost danger. Yet I never once heard that he was molested or assaulted. Other police officers attempting to do the same would have needed a dozen policemen to get them and their prisoners away - and then only after a fight.
Of course it must not be thought there were no decent honest folk in Whitechapel and Spitalfields. There were plenty of them. Foreign Jews never giving any trouble, prosperous furriers, Spitalfields silk weavers - all these were law-abiding citizens.
Such then, in the days of which I write, was Whitechapel.
Bucks Row, George Yard, Hanbury Street, Berners Street, Mitre Square and Miller's Court became the scenes of definite Ripper crimes, and in every case he left behind the mutilated form of what had once been a woman.
It is not easy to say which was the fiend's first murder.
The difficulty is that it was not until some time had elapsed that the country awoke to the terrible realization that a wholesale murderer was abroad.
A single killing in the streets of Whitechapel of that time was not unknown, and had the Ripper been content with one or even two such crimes his name would never have been whispered in terror.
On Easter Monday, 1888, a woman was found lying unconscious outside a big cocoa warehouse in Osborne Street, a turning leading out of the Whitechapel High Street, and merging after a short distance into Brick Lane.
The man who made the discovery called the police and a doctor, and it was realized at once that the poor victim was bleeding to death. She was conveyed to the London Hospital where she lingered for two days in great agony.
The injuries were unusual. Examination showed that the woman was suffering from terrible wounds in the lower part of her body. It was impossible to say with what they had been caused, but the theory of the medical men was that some sort of blunt instrument had been used.
Detectives waited by the bedside in the hope that the woman would rally sufficiently to give them some clue as to her assailants. She died, however, without regaining consciousness.
Emma Smith was the murdered woman's name. At least that is the name by which she was known to associates and to the proprietor of the lodging-house in Church Street, Spitalfields, in which she made her home.
Emma, a woman of more than forty, was something of a mystery. Her past was a closed book even to her most intimate friends. All she had ever told anyone about herself was that she was a widow who more than ten years before had left her husband and broken away from all her early associations.
There was something about Emma Smith which suggested that there had been a time when the comforts of life had not been denied her. There was a touch of culture in her speech unusual in her class.
Once when Emma was asked why she had broken away so completely from her old life she replied, a little wistfully "They would not understand now any more than they understood then. I must live somehow."
So, more lonely even than most of her fellows, she walked the streets of Whitechapel.
On that Easter Monday, Emma Smith entered into none of the holiday festivities. She remained at the lodging-house waiting until the evening, when necessity would drive her once more into the streets.
Evening came, Emma, arrayed in her poor finery, sallied forth to her death.
It was a rule of such lodging-houses as that in which Emma Smith lived that the women must return not later than 1 a.m. if they wished to retain their beds. One o'clock came. There was no sign of the widow. No one worried. Women of that kind often found excuses for remaining out all night and saving the fourpence which they paid for their beds. And it was not until the next day that her fellow-lodgers learned the real reason of Emma's failure to return. But they never guessed that what had happened the previous night was the beginning for them of years of unmitigated terror. They never suspected that the hand which had struck Emma Smith down was to strike again and again.
The public did not suspect it. Nor did the police. How could they do so? The crime itself, save for the unusual nature of the injuries, was no novelty in Whitechapel.
Some even now doubt that the murder of Mrs. Smith was the handiwork of the Ripper. In some respects the crime differed from those which followed.
This woman, although mutilated, had not suffered the horrifying maltreatment meted out to the later victims. And none of the other bodies were found in such an open and frequented thoroughfare as Osborne Street.
Dark alleys and sinister courts were the places the monster selected to bring swift death to the other hapless women who fell into his clutches. The scenes of the crimes seemed to have been deliberately chosen.
But it must be remembered that if this was a Ripper murder it was the first. The need for caution was not so great. Afterwards, when the great hunt was on, hundreds of police were nightly patrolling the streets confident that sooner or later the fiend would fall into their power.
In its brutality and its lack of motive the murder in Osborne Street had the stamp of the Ripper upon it.
It is true that the first assumption of the police was that the woman had been attacked by one of the Whitechapel blackmailing gangs, and there was some support for this theory in the fact that no money was found in the victim s purse. But it is more than likely that Emma Smith was as penniless when she left her lodgings that night as when her body was found. An empty purse was far from being a novel experience to women of her type.
It has always been inconceivable to me that such a person could have been killed for gain. With robbery as the motive, a very different type of victim would have been chosen.
As in every case of murder in this country, however poor and friendless the victim might be, the police made every effort to track down Emma Smith's assailant. Unlikely as well as likely places were searched for clues. Hundreds of people were interrogated, many of them by me personally. Scores of statements were taken. Soldiers from the Tower of London were questioned as to their movements. Ships in the docks were searched and sailors questioned.
All this led nowhere. Not a single clue was discovered.
No one appeared to have seen the fatal blow struck, and no one seemed able to give a description of any man with whom the victim might have been seen.
The silence, the suddenness, the complete elimination of clues, the baffling disappearance all go to support the view which I have always held that Emma Smith was the first to meet her death at the hands of Jack the Ripper.
I have another theory. It is that the Ripper having, like a tiger, tasted blood, remained unsatisfied until his dread knife had cut short the lives of one after another of his victims.
At the inquest proceedings the Coroner made a statement which was strangely prophetic. After commenting on the violence and mystery of the crime he went on to express his uneasiness at the possibility of some particularly brutal murderer being at large in the district.
The verdict, as in all such cases, was "wilful murder against some person or persons unknown," and the case of Emma Smith, friendless and unclaimed by relatives even in death, would never have found a place in the chronicle of big crimes had it not been for the events which followed of which I am to write.
EXCEPT by the police who were still working secretly in their efforts to track the murderer down, the tragedy of Emma Smith, the victim of the Osborne Street crime, was forgotten almost as soon as her mutilated body had been lowered into a pauper's grave.
By most people the crime was merely regarded as a more than usually unpleasant incident in a district in which acts of violence were of daily occurrence.
One might have expected some concern among the women of Emma Smith's class, any one of whom it seemed, might have been the victim. There was none. They gossipped about it at street corners, but they showed no sign of fear.
Indeed the conduct of these women throughout the period of the crimes was to me one of the most remarkable features of the whole drama.
It is true they became panic-stricken following each of the later murders. Sheer terror was reflected in their faces as they walked about, no longer singly, but in groups.
But soon their courage returned. The groups gave place to couples, and then, as time passed with no further evidence of the Ripper, they were to be seen venturing once more alone.
Some of them tried to make a joke of the business. They would call across the street to me, "I'm the next for Jack."
Though much of this was bravado cloaking a secret fear, I had to admire their attitude.
Then, just as we were all fervently hoping-these poor women more than anyone-that we had heard the last of Jack the Ripper, there would be another murder. The panic was renewed, only to be followed once more by a recovery of confidence.
Other East End women whose lives were never in danger from the Ripper's knife showed far more fear than the unfortunates who never knew when they went out at night whether it would be their turn to encounter the dread phantom.
I know from my own personal experience what took place in the East End, or that part of it bounded on the one side by Commercial Road, Whitechapel Road, Leman Street, &c., and on the other side by Shoreditch High Street, Bethnal Green Road, Club Row (a place notorious for the number of stolen dogs marketed there), and Brick Lane, to the proximity of Hoxton, Old Street and Hackney Road.
It was within these boundaries that all the murders took place with the exception of the one in Mitre Square, which came under the jurisdiction of the City of London police.
It was only to be expected that the knowledge that in their midst stalked a human devil who could pass noiselessly among them and murder at will, was too much for the overwrought nerves of many women and children.
A large number flew from the district as from a plague, and thousands of those whom circumstances compelled to remain, made it a habit for a time never to venture out alone after dark.
Mothers were fearful for their daughters whose work compelled them to travel home in darkness; husbands were anxious about their wives; young men for their sweethearts. The terror was contagious. It communicated itself to the children who ran home with fear in their eyes at the slightest scare, and were awakened by fearful nightmares after they had been put to bed.
All this I admit, and yet I say that, bearing in mind the unprecedented circumstances, the people as a whole behaved in a manner which was highly praiseworthy.
The vast majority, although frightened, showed outwardly the same stoic calm that was in evidence during the war.
The worst panic was among the foreign element, and this, after all, is only what one could expect.
Of excitement, of course, there was plenty especially immediately following a crime. Thousands of people from all parts of London rushed to the spot where the latest victim had been discovered.
This happened after the tremendous publicity given in the newspapers, and when the name of Jack the Ripper was on the tongues of people everywhere.
For some months after the Osborne Street murder Whitechapel lived its normal life. Even the police had abandoned hope of solving that mystery.
Then came the first real evidence that Whitechapel was harbouring a devil in human form.
Emma Smith had been murdered on Easter Monday. The Ripper came again on August Bank Holiday of the same year.
A curious coincidence this. Does it mean that these two nights were deliberately chosen? Did the fact that the people of the East End were on holiday in some way facilitate the crimes?
Whatever may be said about the death of Emma Smith there can be no doubt that the August Bank Holiday murder, which took place in George Yard Buildings, less than a hundred yards from the spot where the first victim died, was the handiwork of the dread Ripper.
Again a woman of the streets was the victim. Her name-or at least the name by which she was known locally -was Martha Turner. Her body was found early in the morning on the first landing of a squalid block of buildings in George Yard.
These buildings were just off High Street, Whitechapel, and thus quite close to the police station to which I was attached. Originally the buildings had been a weaving factory. This had been converted into mean flats housing innumerable poor class families.
George Yard had a caretaker, and every night at eleven o'clock it was his duty to turn out the few gas jets with which the landings were lighted.
On this holiday most of the families were still out celebrating when the lights were extinguished, and when they did return they had to climb the stairs to their apartments in unaccustomed darkness.
One couple, a Mr. and Mrs. Mahoney returned at two o'clock in the morning. They saw nothing unusual. Silence then settled upon the drab building until, an hour or so later, Albert Crow, whose duties as a cabman had kept him out late, came home and climbed wearily up the stairs.
Dawn was now breaking. And by the faint light which filtered through the landing window, Mr. Crow saw something lying against the wall. He went closer and saw that it was a woman. She was lying outstretched on her back.
Had this not been the morning following a public holiday Mr. Crow might have made a more thorough examination. But, jumping to the conclusion that the woman had celebrated too freely and was in a drunken sleep, he passed on to his flat without giving the matter another thought.
That the woman was dead, and that she had met a ghastly fate was discovered in a strange way.
Also living in the buildings was a woman named Reeves. She had gone to bed early, but she could not sleep. She was filled with a strange foreboding. Two or three times she awakened her husband and communicated her fears to him. He merely laughed, turned over, and went to sleep again.
But the premonition of tragedy was so strong in Mrs. Reeves' mind that shortly before five o'clock she awakened her husband once more. Her distress was now such that her husband, solely with the idea of pacifying her, decided to investigate.
He was still sceptical as he went down the stairs, but when he reached the first-floor landing he saw something, now fully revealed by the bright morning light, which drove the smile of incredulity from his face and sent him hurrying for a policeman. P.C. Barrett was the officer he found. Together they returned to the buildings. Hardened though he had been by his police experiences in Whitechapel the sight by which the constable was confronted completely unnerved him, just as later I was unnerved by the terrible thing I saw in that little room in Miller's Court.
The dead woman was lying in a pool of blood. Her clothing had been disarranged, and even without close examination the signs of horrible mutilation were obvious.
A doctor and detectives were sent for, and the usual hue and cry which follows a murder was raised.
The poor creature, the doctor was able to say, had been dead many hours. Fiendish violence had been used by her murderer, whose task had been made easy by the woman's own caution. It required small deduction to assume that the woman and the man had met in Whitechapel Road or Commercial Street, and that she had taken him to this backwater known as George Yard to escape the watchful eyes of passing policemen and others.
Many of the Ripper's victims simplified his task in this way. An unlighted alley; the back of premises which could be reached by a passage from the street; an unfrequented court; a dark archway. It was in such spots that all the murders took place.
Nothing could have better suited the fiend's purpose. Immune from observation and immediate discovery, he was able to kill his victims and still have sufficient time to escape.
Martha Turner's injuries had been caused by a knife. There were many wounds, most of which had been caused after death. The poor woman had died without a struggle and without a cry.
Any call for help must have been heard by people sleeping on the other side of the wall against which she was found lying. Her end had been instantaneous. The first wound had been fatal. The others had been inflicted merely to satisfy the blood lust of her assailant.
Dr. , who practised among the poor of Brick Lane, and was the first medical man on the scene, realized at once that this was the work of no ordinary murderer.
Murder and mutilation had probably taken less than a minute. Then, his foul deed accomplished, the Ripper must have stolen swiftly and silently down the stairs and made his way to the home which was never discovered. By the time the body was found he was probably safe in his own bed gloating over the thing he had done.
The police, made eager by the horrible nature of the crime, began their inquiries at once. I played my own small part. At first we seemed to make a little progress. Then we came up against a blank wall.
It was known that Martha Turner had been in the habit of frequenting low public-houses in the company of soldiers and sailors. The preliminary investigations were therefore made among the sailors at the various docks and the soldiers stationed at the Tower of London.
Then came what seemed to be a confirmation of this theory. One of the murdered woman's companions stated that on the night of the crime she had left Martha with a soldier quite close to George Yard.
Lest such a statement should malign soldiers as a class, I hasten to add that it was not a practice of the Tower soldiers to frequent the East End and associate with women of Martha Turner's type. The majority of them had too much decency and too much common sense to penetrate at night into the haunts of Whitechapel. But there were always a few, generally among the younger ones, who were not so mindful as they should have been of their own reputations or of the dignity of their uniform.
The woman who gave us this clue, which turned out to be useless, was known as Pearly Poll. Her story was that she had spent the evening with Martha Turner, and that at eleven o'clock they had met two soldiers. The four remained together until nearly midnight, when Pearly and her companion went off, leaving Martha and her soldier friend outside the buildings in which the murder took place.
Such evidence could not be ignored, and in the hope that she would be able to identify the two soldiers, Pearly Poll was taken to the Tower of London, where all the soldiers stationed there were then paraded before her. Pearly failed to identify the two men, but knowing the difficulties of identification at any time, and especially in the case of men in uniform, the police still hoped that they were on the right track. The fact that a soldier would probably have been wearing his bayonet, a weapon with which the injuries might have been inflicted, seemed to point in the same direction.
Several days passed without a clue being found. Again the police were baffled. The newspapers began to criticize and talk of inefficiency. Then the public took up the cry.
This was grossly unfair. The police were doing everything humanly possible. For the sake of their own prestige, quite apart from their natural desire to avenge a heinous crime, they were determined to succeed.
There was one thing our critics overlooked. This murder, as indeed were all the Ripper murders, was an added burden thrust upon a body of men already grievously overworked. Other crimes were being committed and other criminals had to be hunted. Life for the police officer in Whitechapel in those days was one long nightmare.
My only criticism of the action of the police during the hunt for the Ripper was the policy of those in high places to keep the Press at arm's length. Individual officers were forbidden to give information to the newspapers. With this I have no quarrel because of the dangers of abuse, but I have always thought that the higher police authorities in ignoring the power of the Press deliberately flouted a great potential ally, and indeed might have turned that ally into an enemy.
It is not usual to associate with the same person two murders taking place several months apart. And so in this case it was not for some time after Martha Turner had met her fate that the suspicion was born that Emma Smith might have been the first victim of the same murderer.
But once this suggestion was put forward it captured the public imagination in a remarkable way.
The first theory was that both women had been the victims of the same gang, and the name of the High Rip gang of blackmailers then terrorizing the district was whispered from mouth to mouth.
Soon the gang theory gave place to another, and in all probability the correct one. It was founded on the sinister suggestion that the two crimes were the work of one man, and gave rise to the fear that somewhere in their midst a bloodthirsty villain was at large.
One of the results of this was that the difficulties of the police were greatly increased. People from whom information was sought refused to talk. Their silence was imposed by terror.
They were frightened of the Ripper's vengeance.
Pearly Poll was one of those who took fright. Terrified at the thought of having to give evidence at the Coroner's inquest, she disappeared. Police hunted her for days before she was eventually found hiding in Covent Garden.
Still working on the soldier theory the police took Pearly to Chelsea Barracks where, in a fit of pique, she picked out the first two soldiers she saw. They were able to prove they had been nowhere in the East End on the night of the crime.
This delay handicapped the police and helped the Ripper, who had now visited Whitechapel twice, taken his toll and vanished like a spectre.
Poor Martha Turner, like Emma Smith, remained unavenged.
Martha was a married woman living apart from her husband. How often has tragedy resulted from such separations! I have seen it again and again in the course of my career. All the victims of Jack the Ripper, with the exception of Marie Kelly, were women of this type.
The husband from whom Martha had separated was a furniture packer in Greenwich named Samuel _______ . He was found, but could only say that he had lost all trace of his wife from the day she had left him nine years before to go and live with another man.
The inquest was held and the usual formal verdict returned.
Police efforts were not relaxed. The reverse was the case. Realizing now something of the enormity of the problem by which they were faced, the authorities drafted a large number of extra detectives from Scotland Yard and various Divisions to the East End.
It would be impossible to recount here all that was done, the hundreds of inquiries made, the scores of statements taken and the long, long hours put in by us all. No clue was turned down as too trivial for investigation.
We all had heartbreaking experiences, several times I got on to something which looked like a clue, followed it up day and night, only to find in the end it led nowhere.
As always happens in such cases, so many people were eager to give information. The majority were well-meaning enough, but some notoriety seekers made statements which were patently untrue, with no other object than to get their names into the newspapers.
I have never been able to understand the mentality of such people. Our job was big enough in all conscience without having to waste time exploring false clues.
Already I had formed the view that we were up against the greatest police problem of the century. A third heinous crime shortly afterwards proved how right this theory was.
THE hope and ambition of every East-End policeman -myself included-was to catch the Ripper red-handed.
This seemed the only way. There was small chance of the killer being caught and convicted through circumstantial evidence. Of such evidence there was virtually none.
In most cases in which women are murdered, some man, by reason probably of his association with her, immediately stands suspect. But the Whitechapel victims were all strangers to their slayer, and died within a few minutes of their first meeting with him.
On 1st September, 1888, the Ripper struck a third time. His victim was found in the early hours of the morning lying in the gateway of Essex Wharf, in Bucks Row, just off Brady Street, and not far from Hanbury Street, the scene later of a duplicate murder.
Bucks Row was just a few yards outside the boundary of " H " Division to which I was attached. The district was squalid. The spot for such a crime was ideal. Close by were a number of slaughterhouses.
No better illustration of East-End conditions at the time could be afforded than by the behaviour of Charles ______ , a middle-aged carman, who was the first to see the body.
The carman was on his way through Bucks Row to his day's work when he saw a huddled mass in the gateway of Essex Wharf. He crossed from one side of the street to the other to investigate.
The light was just sufficient to show him that the form was that of a woman and that she had been mishandled. Her clothing had been disarranged and her bonnet had fallen from her head. There was something strange too about the position of the woman's head.
In any other district of London such a discovery would have sent the man dashing for a policeman. But this was Whitechapel, where crimes of violence and outrage were of everyday occurrence.
The carman shook the woman. She did not stir. He decided it was a case of a woman who had fainted following assault, and, making a mental note to report the matter to the first police constable he saw, he went on his way.
A curious thing then happened. The carman had gone but a short distance when he saw another man on the opposite side of the street whose behaviour was certainly suspicious. The other man seemed to seek to avoid the carman, who went over to him, and said:
"Come and look here. Here's a woman been knocked about."
Together the two men went to the gateway where the poor woman was lying. The newcomer felt her heart. His verdict was not reassuring.
"I think she's breathing," he told his companion, "but it's very little if she is."
The couple parted, ________ promising, as he walked away, to call a policeman.
All this was afterwards told in evidence by the carman. It never had the corroboration of the other man. The police made repeated appeals for him to come forward, but he never did so.
Why did he remain silent? Was it guilty knowledge that caused him to ignore the appeals of the police?
In any other district and in any other circumstances this would have been a natural inference, but in the East End of London at this time the man might have had a dozen reasons for avoiding the publicity which would have followed. He might have been a criminal; or he might have been afraid, as so many were, to risk the linking of his name with a Ripper-crime.
The carman reported his early-morning discovery to a policeman, but in the meantime, P.C. Neal, making his regular beat along Bucks Row, had en the huddled form lying in the gateway.
The policeman, with the aid of his bullseye, saw what the others had overlooked. The woman's head had been almost severed from the body.
Soon after P.C. Neal had given the alarm, Dr. _______ , whose surgery was in Whitechapel Road, was on the scene. He could only confirm the conclusion reached by the constable-that the woman was dead.
The throat injury had caused instant death, but it was the mutilation of the lower part of the body which told policemen and doctor as plainly as though the woman's assailant had himself spoken, that the killer the East End feared had come again.
The remains were taken to the mortuary-what terrible places these were in those days-where further examination proved beyond all doubt that the hand which had struck down Martha Turner had also committed the crime in the gateway of the Essex Wharf.
We began our inquiries at once. Close to the scene of the tragedy several watchmen were employed. None of them had heard a sound, and some of them went so far as to declare that it was impossible for the crime to have been committed at the spot where the body was found.
But we were to learn again and again that Jack the Ripper never gave his victims a chance to advertise his dread presence.
There was later some conflict of opinion as to whether the Bucks Row victim was actually struck down there or carried to the spot after death. In my own mind I have never had any doubt that the woman died where she was found-in the gateway of Essex Wharf.
One significant discovery was made in this case. The throat had been cut from right to left, such as would have been the case had her assailant been a left-handed person. The police worked upon this clue, but as in the case of all other theories and all possible clues, it led nowhere.
The injuries to the throat and to the body suggested the ferocity of a madman.
What was the motive? This was the question we were always up against. There seemed to be none, unless the killer was wreaking his vengeance against a class.
The latest Ripper murder was discussed with bated breath, not only in the East End of London, but throughout the whole country.
Crowds began to gather in Bucks Row and outside the local police station, and some ignorant-minded persons tried to organize a demonstration against the police.
To some extent I can sympathize with the public. They were living in the presence of a terror which was inspiring fear among their women-folk. They could only look to the police for deliverance from the menace.
What they overlooked was that idle criticism of the police must hinder rather than help the accomplishment of the one thing police and public alike most desired.
The third Ripper victim was quickly identified as Mary Ann Nicholls, a woman of thirty-eight, who shared a tiny, well-kept room in a lodging-house at 18 Thawl Street, Spitalfields. She paid fourpence a night for her bed.
Had Mary Nicholls possessed the sum of fourpence at midnight on the night of her death she might have escaped death.
At that hour she returned penniless to her lodgings, and it was force of circumstances which drove her to face the streets again.
Mary joked as she went out for the last time.
"I'll soon have my doss money," she cried. "Look what a nice new bonnet I am wearing now."
It was this same bonnet which some hours later the carman found lying beside her battered body.
Only once was Mary seen after she went out at midnight. We got evidence that at 2.30 in the morning she was standing at a spot in Osborne Street almost identical with that at which the first Ripper victim met her death. That was some little distance from the gateway in Bucks Row, where her own body was found a few hours later.
Again there was the same baffling absence of clues that was a feature of all the Jack the Ripper murders. He came, no one knew whence and departed, no one knew whither.
There were definite signs now of panic among the populace. The publicity given by the newspapers and the freedom with which the cases were discussed everywhere caused the actual dangers to be magnified.
A moment's serious thought would have been sufficient to show that the only people to whom the fiend was a menace were the poor women of the streets. The three victims had all been of this class. Those that followed were the same.
But I am afraid that the respectable women of Whitechapel derived small comfort at the time from any such reflection, and everywhere extreme precautions were taken against the Ripper's coming.
As soon as darkness set in on the night following the Mary Nicholls' murder hundreds of women locked themselves in their homes. Tradesmen made a rich harvest in making houses secure. Courts, which had hitherto remained in sinister darkness, were now illuminated by feeble lanterns.
The panic which seized the women of Mary Nicholls' class was understandable. They were in a sense defenceless. The very nature of their livelihood precluded them from appealing for protection to the police, though this would have been given readily enough in the case of a known danger.
Many such women fled in terror from the East End never to return. Those who remained walked about in groups, and made a picture of frightened misery.
I felt sorry for these women, exposed as they were to a danger all the more terrorizing because none knew how, where or when it came.
As may be imagined, feeling against the Ripper ran high. The temper of the people was such that had the police had the good fortune to arrest him in a public place, they would have been lucky, indeed, to get him safely to a police station.
More than one innocent man narrowly escaped lynching at the hands of an infuriated mob.
One of the suspects about this time was a man known locally as " Leather Apron ". He was a doubtful character known to the police. Moreover, he invariably wore boots with rubber soles, this fitting in with the popular conception of the silent-working Ripper.
Leather Apron " was a short, heavily-built man of Jewish appearance, and he had been so nicknamed locally because whenever seen he was wearing a small leather apron.
After the Martha Turner murder, " Leather Apron " disappeared from his usual haunts. His prowling the streets at night ceased.
Then came the Mary Nicholls' tragedy, and in their eagerness to find someone to fit the bill everyone in the East End seemed to jump at the same time to the conclusion that the man the police had to find was "Leather Apron".
"Get 'Leather Apron'," became the popular cry. "Lynch him!"
It became necessary for the police to find "Leather Apron" if only to protect him from the fate he was likely to suffer if he fell into the hands of the mob. His description was circulated.
This led to the man being found. He was discovered by a detective hiding in a house in Mulberry Street, and in order not to attract attention in the streets the two walked normally together to Leman Street Police-Station.
"Leather Apron" appreciated the thoughtfulness of the officer who found him. He was under no delusions as to the danger which threatened him. He had been hiding, not from the police, but from the public.
It is amazing how soon news of this sort goes round. "Leather Apron" had not been under lock and key for more than half an hour when hundreds of people congregated outside the police station clamouring to get at him.
There was widespread rejoicing. The Terror had been trapped! The menace had been removed. So thought the people.
They were wrong. "Leather Apron" made a statement accounting for his movements during the previous ten days, which, if true, ruled him out as a possible murderer of Mary Nicholls. Every detail in the statement was carefully checked. It was found to be correct.
In the ordinary way the man would have been released at once. The police had nothing against him then. But, with the populace in the mood it was, this would have meant the violent death of an innocent man.
So "Leather Apron" was kept in safety until after the resumed inquest on Mrs. Nicholls at which his name was publicly cleared. He was then released, and so far as I know was never molested.
It was soon after this that the cry for "Leather Apron" gave place to the cry for "Jack the Ripper".
Poor Mrs. Nicholls was another married woman separated from her husband.
Her father, whose name was Smith, identified her at the inquest, though he was only able to do so by a scar on her forehead which she had received when a child.
He told the Coroner that she had been separated from her husband for seven years and had spent some time in Lambeth Workhouse. After that he had lost all trace of her, and it was not until after her death that he had learned of the sort of life she had been leading in recent years.
I am a great admirer of British juries, but occasionally one comes across a voluble juryman who barges in with silly questions of no value to the Coroner or to anyone else. I have known some adopt a very arrogant attitude, and recall an instance some years ago when I was the victim of one of these " gentlemen " who behaved as though he would like me hanged, drawn and quartered.
The inquests on these women did not fail to produce one or two jurymen who wanted to know why the police had not done this, that, or the other, though I have no recollection of any of them making a practical attempt to help.
One juryman at the inquest on Mrs. Nicholls made just such an outburst. "Why don't the police offer a reward?" he cried. "If Mrs. Nicholls had been a rich woman living in the West End of London they would have offered Ģ1000. But she is a poor unfortunate and so they take no notice. These women have souls just like other women, and I myself will offer Ģ25 to anyone who can tell me anything which will help."
All stuff and nonsense ! The truth is that the Home Office is very chary about offering rewards, and for very good reasons, and, of course, the police cannot make such an offer without the authority of headquarters.
Let me say at once, it was not a question of money at all. Police and public-a very familiar phrase in those days-were doing their best. No matter what sum of money had been offered it would have made no difference. Right-minded people don't want blood money.
There would have been money in plenty for the person responsible for bringing this monster to book. It would have rolled in from rich and poor alike, so great would have been the gratitude of the people.
Unofficially, substantial rewards were offered. Great bankers and others openly stated that they were ready to pay big money to the person giving information leading to the Ripper's arrest. Unhappily, the occasion for the redemption of these promises never arose.
Those were wretched days for me. The hunt became an obsession. I spent long, long hours on duty, only to return home worn out but sleepless.
Night after night I tossed about on my bed seeing again and again the terrible sights I had witnessed. In this I was not alone. There were dozens of other police officers whose lives Jack the Ripper had made scarcely worth living.
My food sickened me. The sight of a butcher's shop nauseated me.
All this had to be hidden from the women folk. It would never have done to let them see you were worried. My aim always was to minimize the crimes. On their awfulness I kept silent.
The women were frightened enough without listening to such ghastly details as I could have given.
It was the uncanniness of the crimes that "got" the women. Their courage was undermined by the knowledge that somewhere in their midst there lurked unknown, unheard, unseen, the man who came to kill.
And it was only a few days after the Bucks Row drama that yet another victim died just as silently and mysteriously as all the others.
THE scene of the Ripper's fourth coming was Hanbury Street, no more than a minute's walk from Commercial Street Police Station, and quite close to Spitalfields Church and Market.
Only the day before, the blinds of the windows in Hanbury Street had been drawn when the funeral procession of Mary Nicholls, the third victim, passed that way.
If I remember rightly it was on a Saturday morning that a strongly-built woman in the early forties was found murdered and mutilated, in a fashion we had all come to dread, in the small back yard of No. 29.
The house belonged to a woman named Richardson, a respectable packing-case maker, but she and her family occupied only a small portion of the premises. Altogether seventeen persons made their homes in the building, the front door of which was kept open day and night.
Through this door the murderer must have passed with his victim, thence along a dark and narrow passage to the yard at the rear which was only separated from the adjoining premises by a four-foot fence.
In some ways, this was the most daring of all the Ripper crimes. Had either he or the woman given an inkling of their presence in that small yard h could have been caught like a rat in a trap. But again he was true to the Ripper tradition. His deed was done in silence, and not a soul in the building guessed that they would awake next morning to discover the frightful evidence of his coming on their own back doorstep.
But more remarkable than his escape from, the house itself is his safe passage through the streets now filled with hunters.
Huge numbers of police, both from the uniformed and plain-clothes branches, were on patrol from dusk till dawn. Yet he must have passed through the ring of watchers, not once but twice. Small wonder that the superstitious-minded began to whisper that such an escape was possible only to a supernatural being.
What these people failed to see was that, however thorough a police patrol may be, it is quite impossible to keep every door in every house in every street under continual surveillance. The area of possibility was so big that there were bound to be loopholes in the precautions taken.
One may be sure that the murderer, his deed accomplished, only emerged from that dark doorway in Hanbury Street when he knew the coast was clear. If he then turned left, he was in Brick Lane in a moment or so and he could gain Commercial Street, where he had the market in front of him in the same time.
With luck-and the killer must have had the devil's own luck-a man of his undoubted cunning always had slightly more than even money chance of getting away.
Mrs. Richardson's son was a porter at Spitalfields Market. His work took him abroad very early in the morning.
On this particular morning, young Richardson was about before any of the other residents of No. 29, and before leaving the premises he actually went into the yard without seeing anything suspicious.
It was not until much later-the exact time was a quarter to six-that John Davis, a labourer who lived with his wife and children on the top floor, went into the yard and saw a sight which nearly turned his brain. Scarce knowing what he did, he ran into the street crying, " Murder ! Murder!" at the top of his voice. Two men came in response to his cries, and as they reached him Davis collapsed in the street.
With eyes bulging almost out of his head, Davis pointed to the passage, and mumbled something about there being a dead woman in there. "I can't face it again," he gasped.
Only the work of Jack the Ripper could have inspired the fear which showed in the labourer's eyes. The two men knew instinctively what they were going to find at the other end of that dark passage.
They braced themselves and went in. And when they reached the yard they understood at once why Davis had cried, "I can't face it again."
The woman was lying to the left of the door and close to the fence. Her injuries, although these men didn't know it, were exact duplicates of those which had been suffered by Mary Nicholls. The head had been almost severed from the body and, for some mysterious reason, was being kept in position by a tightly tied, coloured handkerchief.
Disarranged clothing and fearful mutilation of the body told their own story.
The cool deliberation of the killer is shown by the fact that, with every second precious to him, he had stayed to arrange the woman's personal belongings in a neat pile at her feet.
When Dr. Phillips, the divisional surgeon came, he confirmed what the police had already assumed, that there was no doubt at all that the mutilation in this case had been caused by the same hand which had maltreated the dead body of Mary Nicholls.
I knew Dr. Phillips well. He lived in Spital Square, close to Commercial Street Police Station, and had been the local divisional surgeon for a great many years.
He was a character. An elderly man, he was ultra-old-fashioned both in his personal appearance and his dress. He used to look for all the world as though he had stepped out of a century-old painting. His manners were charming; he was immensely popular both with the police and the public, and he was highly skilled.
Doctors are supposed to be immune from the shock of gruesome sights, but I met more than one Whitechapel doctor of this period who dreaded to be called to a Ripper crime. I sympathized with them.
The fourth victim was Annie Chapman.
Until four years previously, the woman had lived a normal, reasonably happy married life. Her husband was a head coachman employed at _______.
Another man came along to win her affection and to break up her home. She left her husband for her lover, who discarded her three years later. She tried to live by needlework, but in the end she was driven to the streets. Her home was a mean lodging-house in Dorset Street.
And so another woman who had once known respectability and a happy home life met the qualifications which Jack the Ripper required in his victims, and had the bad luck to cross his path early on this September morning.
There was in the Annie Chapman case evidence that whatever her murderer's motive for killing, he might also have been ready to rob when his victim had anything worth taking.
When Mrs. Chapman left her lodging-house for the last time she was wearing two rings. They were only made of brass, but in the darkness might easily have been mistaken for gold. These rings had been torn from her fingers. But one must not lose sight of the fact that there were many other ways in which the loss of the murdered woman's rings might have been accounted for.
Indeed, all the evidence, except this, suggests that whatever he may have been, the Ripper was not a thief. If robbery had been any part of his motive he would have chosen victims very different from those East End women.
I was one of the large body of police officers kept busy the day after the murder interviewing all kinds of people and taking statements from them. We concentrated mostly in and around Hanbury Street.
What a task !
As often as not I required an interpreter, and you can imagine something of my difficulties in seeking anything like a coherent statement from frightened foreigners.
I was standing in Commercial Street with a fellow detective named Stacey, when my attention was attracted by a young man standing close to the entrance to Dorset Street. I recognized him 'at once as a young scoundrel nicknamed "Squibby ", who had given the police a lot of trouble at one time and another, and was now " wanted " for assault on a child.
"Squibby " was an associate of notorious young thieves, and although short of stature he was stockily built, and so powerful that we used to call him the Pocket Hercules.
Whenever this " charming " young fellow was arrested it took six or eight policemen to get him to the station, and by the time he was brought in he was usually devoid of every stitch of clothing, and the policemen pretty well hors de combat.
This " mighty atom " of the East End was covered from head to foot with tattoo designs.
Some time previously "Squibby " had engaged in one of his periodical battles with the police. It was as a result of this that the child was injured. The assault on the girl was not deliberate. "Squibby" was amusing himself by throwing bricks at a policeman. One of the missiles was badly aimed and hit the child.
Knowing he would be "wanted" for that, the miniature giant went into hiding, and the morning following the Hanbury Street murder was the first occasion following the offence that he had come under the eyes of a police officer. I have a shrewd suspicion that it was not mere curiosity that caused " Squibby " to mix among that throng of morbid sightseers. He was not the type of fellow to let an opportunity like that pass.
Unfortunately for me, " Squibby's " eyes were as sharp as my own. Recognition was mutual. He knew I would be after him, and was determined to give me a hard chase. He made a sudden dash, dived between the legs of a horse,', crossed the road, and ran as fast as his short legs could carry him along Commercial Street, in the direction of Aldgate.
Stacey and I gave chase, drawing our truncheons - plain-clothes men carried truncheons during the Ripper murders - as we went.
The sight of a man running away from the scene of a Ripper crime with the police officers in hot pursuit sent the crowd wild with excitement. They jumped to the conclusion that the man on the run was a murder suspect.
"Jack the Ripper ! Jack the Ripper ! Lynch him!" The cry was started by a few and taken up by hundreds.
Behind us as I ran I could hear the tramp of hundreds of feet.
As I was passing Fashion Street a great, burly brute did his best to trip me by thrusting his legs in front of mine. He possibly thought I was the man the crowd was chasing, but more probably knew me as a police officer. I dealt him a heavy blow with my truncheon and he fell back into a baker's window.
Meantime our quarry had reached Flower-and-Dean Street, and realizing that he was bound to be caught if he continued running, he entered the front door of a house, jumped over a low wall, and entered the adjoining house.
Stacey and I dashed in after him. He led us up the stairs and into a bedroom where we grabbed him just as he was making his way through a back window.
I was done in. So was Stacey. Now for a rough time, I thought. "Squibby " had never been known to be arrested without the most violent resistance.
But this was a different "Squibby ". Instead of finding, as we expected, an animal of a man, foaming at the mouth and ready to fight to the last breath, his face was of a ghastly hue and he trembled violently.
In a flash I saw the reason. It was not of Stacey or myself that the wanted man was afraid but of the howling mob outside.
They were crying for his blood. Their cries reached us.
" Lynch him. Fetch him out. It's Jack the Ripper," came from a thousand throats. The crowd now stretched to Commercial Street.
"Squibby " saw the danger, and so now did I. His life wouldn't have been worth twopence once that mob got their hands on him.
I told him we would do what we could, but I have often wondered what would have happened had not a number of uniformed police officers followed and, as I discovered afterwards, with great difficulty held the door of the house in which we were marooned.
Precautions had also been taken against a demonstration of mob law. Urgent messages had been sent to the surrounding police stations-Leman Street and Commercial Street -and soon reinforcements of uniformed police arrived on the scene.
The baffled crowd became more bloodthirsty than ever. The very precautions the police were taking confirmed them in their conviction that the man whose life they were demanding could be none other than the East End Terror.
The cries of "Get him ! Lynch him!" " Murder him !" became more insistent than ever, and I am sure little "Squibby " was convinced that his last hour had come. No policeman who had previously had the unpleasant task of arresting him would have believed that such a change could come over a man. Abject terror showed in his eyes as again and again he appealed to me for protection.
I myself wouldn't have given much for " Squibby's " life at that moment, and I was not at all happy as to what might happen to Stacey and myself if the mob reached us.
Presently, however, the yells of the crowd became more subdued, and I ventured down to the front door of the hovel into which our prisoner had led us. The sight I saw filled me with relief. Scores of lusty policemen were clearing a space in front of the house.
Never in all my life have I more warmly welcomed the sight of the blue uniform.
Several officers came into the house, and it was only with their assistance that our scared prisoner could be induced to descend the stairs and face the street.
On emerging into Flower-and-Dean Street I realized that our dangers were far from over. At the sight of the little man being shepherded by a posse of police officers the mob seemed to go mad.
They made one mad, concerted rush which threatened for a time to break down the police barrier. Their cries became louder than ever, filthy epithets being intermixed with the demands for " Squibby's " summary execution.
We gained Commercial Street, but beyond that, despite the strong force of police, we found it impossible to go.
One thoughtful young constable solved our immediate problem by getting a four-wheeled cab from Aldgate into which we bundled our prisoner and proceeded with the police forming a " guard of honour ".
At last it seemed that our troubles were over. But, oh dear, no! Several ugly rushes were made at the cab, and more than once it came within an ace of being over-turned.
A big, burly inspector named Babbington came to our rescue. He suggested that we should be much safer on foot than in our precarious vehicle, and with this I agreed. So out we scrambled, just along Spitalfields Market.
The whole of Commercial Street was now packed by a yelling, hooting mob of frenzied people. Some, I have no doubt, regarded the opportunity as a heaven-sent one to have a go at the police.
A lane was formed all the way to Commercial Street police station, and after what seemed to me an interminable time, and likewise I am sure to "Squibby ", we fought our way into the grimy-looking building which for once looked really beautiful to me.
This station is, or was, an island. It was immediately surrounded by the mob, now more infuriated than ever because the man they believed to be the " Ripper " had been delivered safely at the police station.
Even now they did not abandon hope of taking the law into their own hands. The police station was attacked again and again, and it was only the indomitable pluck of the men in blue which prevented an innocent man being crucified. There were many sore heads in Commercial Street that day.
I was told afterwards that from the very first police officers shouted to the crowd to say that the man who had been taken in custody had nothing whatever to do with the Ripper murders. They would have none of it. Their blood was up.
For a long time the shouting crowd surrounded the police station. A few seconds after a space had been cleared it was filled again.
Inspectors went to the upper windows of the police station and tried to explain who the prisoner was, and why he had been arrested. Several other ruses were adopted in order to induce the people to go to their homes. But nothing would convince them they had made a mistake, and it was not until many hours after " Squibby " had been placed under lock and key that the streets in the vicinity of the police station reverted to their normal peacefulness.
The moment he was put in a cell "Squibby " began to regain his composure. Much as he hated policemen he had confidence in their ability to protect him in their own police station. Eventually he was sentenced to three months' imprisonment and was quite happy about it.
" I shall be much safer in Pentonville for a bit," he said with a smile.
After this experience "Squibby " was a changed man. Whenever he met me he never failed to thank me for " saving his life ", and as far as I know he never again gave trouble to police officers whose duty it was to arrest him.
I have seen many riotous crowds in my career, but none quite like the one I have described. Every man and woman in that mob was ready to tear a fellow-creature to pieces because some fool, seeing a man pursued by police officers, had shouted "Jack the Ripper "
SOMEONE, somewhere, shared Jack the Ripper's guilty secret. Of this I am tolerably certain. The man lived somewhere. Each time there was a murder he must have returned home in the early hours of the morning. His clothing must have been bespattered with blood.
These facts alone ought to have been sufficient to arouse suspicion, and to cause a statement to be made to the police.
Suspicion, I have no doubt, was aroused, but that statement to the police was never made.
Why should anyone seek to shield such a monster?
Well, my experience has taught me that the person who remained silent may have been actuated by any one of a number of motives.
It might have been sentiment. It is asking a lot of a wife to give away her husband when she knows in advance that she is handing him over to the gallows. That also applies to a mother.
The motive which prevented the words of betrayal from being spoken might also have been fear. There were many simple-minded people living in the East End of London at this time, who, with the knowledge which would have led to the Ripper being caught and convicted in their possession, would have been afraid to use it. The very terror the murderer inspired might well have been his own safety valve.
Quite apart from these two possibilities it is an established fact that many law-abiding folk are reluctant to communicate valuable information to the authorities in murder and other serious cases.
And this, despite the fact that their silence renders them liable to severe punishment as accessories either before or after the fact.
Some people take the view-Why should I say anything?
If I do I have to go to the police court, hang about there in a musty room waiting to give evidence: my name and perhaps my photograph will be published in all the newspapers. Then I shall have to give evidence again at the Old Bailey or the Assize Court as the case may be.
Another man hangs back because of a skeleton in his cupboard. He is frightened of cross-examination and what might be revealed.
I myself have stood in criminal courts and listened to the cross-examination of witnesses until I have been led almost to wonder whether the witness has not been mistaken for the prisoner.
The plain fact is that few people court the publicity which is bound to follow a person's close association with a sensational trial.
Over and over again I have had the greatest difficulty in persuading people who have been the victims of extensive robberies to attend the police court. They have told me bluntly that they would rather lose their property than face such an ordeal.
My sympathy has often been with them, although as a police officer I was only doing my duty in using my utmost endeavours to get them to come forward.
Women, as a rule, are more shy than men. Can you wonder at it? It is not nice for a woman to have to hang around for days in a place like the Old Bailey and listen to the sordid stories which are told there.
The police of to-day are handicapped by the same reluctance that was shown in the days of Jack the Ripper.
Jack the Ripper worked alone. Therefore there was never any hope of his being given away by a fellow-criminal.
We hoped for a long time that one day information pointing to the monster would be volunteered. We were disappointed.
Of information there was plenty. We were flooded with volunteered statements and anonymous letters after the murder of Annie in Hanbury Street. But not a single clue resulted.
Senseless criticism of so-called police inefficiency broke out again when it became obvious that the Hanbury Street crime would have to be relegated to the " unsolved " list, and it was probably the distrust thus engendered that caused the formation of a Vigilant Committee. The members of this committee-all men-took upon themselves to patrol the streets at night in the hope that they would succeed where the police had failed.
The motive was praiseworthy enough, but the organization turned out to be more of a handicap than a help. It had no official recognition, and the only result, so far as I could see, was that the task of the police was doubled. The fewer people using the streets at night the better the chance of the police in checking the movements of any suspicious person !
A sigh of relief went up throughout the East End of London when news came which seemed to indicate that Jack the Ripper had appeared in the north of England.
Near Gateshead-on-Tyne, a young woman was found lying, murdered and mutilated, in a ditch.
So strong were the indications that this was a Ripper crime that I believe Dr. Phillips, who by this time had become a specialist on the Whitechapel mutilations, and Scotland Yard officers journeyed north. At first both the doctor and the police were deceived and gave it as their opinion that the girl had been a Ripper victim.
Panic spread to the industrial north and even into Scotland, whence it was rumoured the fiend had gone, until later developments proved that the girl had been killed by her own sweetheart. It was an imitative crime.
And so public attention became focused once more on Whitechapel, where, in fearful expectancy the people waited for the next blow to fall.
Rumours of all kinds became rife. People allowed their imaginations to run riot. There was talk of black magic and of vampires, especially among the superstitious foreigners.
Other criminals made capital out of the police concentration on the greater evil. Ordinary crime not only continued unabated, but actually increased. Every day people were robbed and assaulted, and the knife was freely used.
One would have thought that in the circumstances, these lesser criminals would have joined in the fight against the common enemy. Unfortunately for the hard-pressed police they did not do so.
We were hard pressed. Sometimes, as I went wearily about my work, ever seeking the elusive clue that would bring the Killer to justice, I became sick at heart as I wondered how much longer those nightmares were to continue.
Now, as I sit quietly in my home on the Sussex coast and hark back in my mind to those racking days, my greatest wonder is that the man we were so zealously hunting escaped again and again the watchful eyes of hundreds of policemen nightly on the look out for him.
It was soon after the Hanbury Street murder that strange messages began to be chalked up on the walls in the vicinity of the crime. On a wall in a passage running off Hanbury Street this terrible prophecy was read with awe by thousands of people
"THIS IS THE FOURTH. I WILL MURDER 16 MORE AND THEN GIVE MYSELF UP."
The public, ready by this time to believe anything, assumed that this message and others similar could have been written by the man who inspired their dread.
They may have been, but I very much doubt it. Far more likely that the writing was the work of mischievous-minded people who obtained some grim pleasure in adding to the fears of an already demented people.
Unfortunately, the " Ripper " messages were read by children as well as adults. Many of them became so nervous that they were afraid to go to school. Jack the Ripper became the children's bogey man.
It is not easy to understand the mentality of a person who at such a time deliberately sets out to add to the general panic by chalking. the walls with bogus messages. It is equally hard to explain the large number of anonymous letters received by the police purporting to have been written by the murderer.
Those letters received by the police were not made public, but some which were sent to other people were widely published in the press. One such letter, posted in the East End of London, was sent to a news agency. It had been written in red ink, and had apparently been smeared with blood. This was the letter:
"Dear Boss,-I keep on hearing the police have caught me, but they won't fix me yet. I have laughed when they look so clever, and talk about being on the right track. Great joke about Leather Apron. Gave me real fits. I am down on women and I shan't give up my work until I get buckled. Grand job the last was. I gave the lady no time to squeal. How can they catch me? I love my work, and want to start again. You will soon hear of me again with my funny little games. Ha ! ha ! ha! The next job I shall do I shall clip the lady's ears and send them to the police. Keep this letter until I do another job, and then send it out straight. (Signed) Jack the Ripper."
That letter did not deceive me for one moment. I am ready to stake my reputation that it was never penned by the man whom the signature was supposed to represent.
The man who wrote that letter was illiterate. If you accept it at its face value you must rule out at once the theory widely held at the time, and accepted in many quarters to-day that Jack the Ripper was a man of education and culture.
One of the strongest rumours at the time was that the Terror was a medical student or a doctor, support being supposedly lent to this suggestion by a certain anatomical skill shown in the mutilations.
I did not see all the murdered women, but I saw most of them, and all I can say is that if the wounds they sustained are representative of a doctor's skill with the knife, it is a very simple matter to become a. surgeon. This is certainly true of the case of Marie Kelly, whose poor body had been hacked about in a manner far more suggestive of a maniac than a man with knowledge of surgery.
The doubts I cast upon the letter I have quoted are prompted by a different consideration. Jack the Ripper, whoever and whatever he may have been was obviously a man of cunning.
The mental picture I have formed of him cannot by any stretch of the imagination be reconciled with the writer of such a crude and childish letter.
If he had written a letter, it would, I am sure, have been just as clever, calculating and cunning as his crimes and his escapes.
We had scarcely recovered our breath after the horror of Hanbury Street, when the Ripper came once more from his hiding place to eclipse in cunning, speed and silence all his previous crimes.
Three days only had elapsed since the death of Annie Chapman - the date was 30th September, 1888 - when the whole country was horrified beyond measure by the news that not only one ghastly crime had been discovered, but two.
The first body was found under an archway leading to some stables in Berners Street, off Commercial Road, the second in Mitre Square, a quiet little spot in the City of London, not far from Aldgate, and close to the scenes of all the other murders.
That two such crimes should have been committed in such circumstances seemed incredible alike to police and public.
Never in the history of the East End of London had such elaborate precautions been taken to prevent the very thing which had not only been done, but repeated.
Hundreds of police, in uniform, in plain-clothes and in all manner of disguises - some even dressed as women - patrolled every yard of every street in the " danger zone " every few minutes.
The most obscure corners were periodically visited. All suspicious characters were stopped and questioned.
Knowing of all these precautions and knowing how determined were the police, I would have staked my life almost that the Ripper, or any other human being, could not have penetrated that area and got away again.
Even now I am completely mystified as to how the terrible events of that night could have happened. What courage the man must have had, and what cunning to walk into so carefully prepared a trap and to get out again without anyone having the slightest suspicion that he was abroad.
It seemed as though the fiend set out deliberately to prove that he could defeat every effort to capture him. He killed one woman in Berners Street. With that he .was not satisfied. Before the body of his first victim was cold he went to Mitre Square and took the life of a second.
In both cases the Ripper must have been within an ace of capture.
Perhaps in Berners Street he had his narrowest escape of all, for he did not stay to mutilate the body. Perhaps it was this which sealed the fate of the second woman. His blood lust was not satisfied.
No one saw him, or at any rate no one associated him with the crime, as he made his way from Berners Street to Mitre Square, passing presumably along Commercial Road, through Butcher's Row, Whitechapel, Aldgate, and various side streets.
And again no one saw him as he passed away from the scene of that second tragedy to the shelter of his own home,
The Ripper's escape that night was little short of a miracle. Small wonder, when it became known, that there were many among the public ready to ascribe to him powers gained from supernatural sources.
It is believed that the Berners Street murder was discovered less than five minutes after the fatal blow had been struck. The alarm was immediately given. A cordon was thrown round the district. But it is probable that by this time the Ripper was well on his way to Aldgate and his second crime, which is believed to have taken place within half an hour of the first. Mitre Square was left unguarded for fourteen minutes. That was long enough for the man who worked so stealthily and swiftly.
Berners Street had been reformed. Formerly it had been known as Tigers' Bay and had been the refuge of many of the most desperate criminals of the East End. But the police had combed and cleaned it, with the result that it had become a comparatively decent street in which to live.
Some distance along the street was a dark, narrow court, leading to Commercial Road. The court was closed at night by two large wooden gates, in one of which there was a small wicket gate for the use of residents when the larger ones were closed. It was through this wicket gate that the Ripper and the first of his two victims that night passed.
The court had no lamps and was in darkness. On one side were cottages occupied mostly by cigarette-makers and tailors. The whole length of the other side was taken up by the rear of a social club known as The Working Men's Educational Club. A back entrance linked the building with the court and was in fairly frequent use.
The club had a good name. Its members were nearly all foreigners-Russians, Germans, Poles and Continental Jews. That night there happened to be a special function at the club, and a good many men were in the building from 8.30 p.m. till past eleven o'clock. It was a wet night. The rain beat mercilessly on the windows of the room.
Not a single suspicious sound was heard by any of the men inside the building, but it is more than probable that a woman living in one of the cottages on the other side of the court was the only person ever to see the Ripper in the vicinity of one of his crimes.
This woman was a Mrs. Mortimer. After the main meeting at the clubhouse had broken up some thirty or forty members who formed the choir, remained behind to sing. Mrs. Mortimer, as she had done on many previous occasions, came out to her gate the better to hear them. For ten minutes she remained there, seeing and hearing nothing which made her at all suspicious.
Just as she was about to re-enter her cottage the woman heard the approach of a pony and cart. She knew this would be Lewis Dienschitz, the steward of the club. He went every Saturday to the market, returning about this hour of the early morning.
At the same moment Mrs. Mortimer observed something else, silent and sinister. A man, whom she judged to be about thirty, dressed in black, and carrying a small, shiny black bag, hurried furtively along the opposite side of the court.
The woman was a little startled. The man's movements had been so quiet that she had not seen him until he was abreast of her. His head was turned away, as though he did not wish to be seen. A second later he had vanished round the corner leading to Commercial Road.
It was left to Mr. Dienschitz to make the discovery that that court had been chosen by the Ripper for the dispatch of yet another unfortunate.
The shying of the steward's pony led him to investigate a huddled mass against the wall. It was the body of a woman.
IT will never be known just what were the powers of fascination Jack the Ripper held over women. There must have been something about him which inspired immediate confidence in those he selected as his victims.
These poor women knew better than anyone else the grave risks they ran in associating at this time with strange men. This danger to themselves must ever have been uppermost in their minds. Yet they accepted the man's advances seemingly without question.
How was he able so readily to allay their fears?
Is the explanation the more simple one that the man in appearance and conduct was entirely different from the popular conception of him?
Take the Berners Street victim. She knew that only three days before Annie Chapman had been lured by the enemy of her kind into that little backyard in Hanbury Street to a swift and relentless death. Her sense of personal danger must in consequence have been acute.
In spite of this she allowed herself to be taken by the man whose coming she dreaded more than anything else in the world into that Berners Street court in which she met her own fate.
It is this aspect of the murders which suggests to one's mind that Jack the Ripper might have been a real-life counterpart of the villain of the murder mystery novel. Is it not feasible that there was something about him which placed him above suspicion?
Let us assume for a moment he was a man of prominence and good repute locally. Against such a man, in the absence of direct evidence, it is too much to expect that local police officers would hold such a terrible suspicion.
And, assuming this to be the case, the man's amazing immunity can be the more readily explained. The same qualities which silenced the suspicions of his woman victims would keep him right with the police officers who knew and respected him.
I am not putting this forward as anything more than a reasonable deduction from the facts as they are known. It is merely one of the many possibilities, though, I must say, far more likely than some of the wild theories that have been advanced.
I cannot conceive any woman at that time accompanying any man of whom she entertained the slightest suspicion into that dark and dismal court off Berners Street into which Mr. Lewis Dienschitz drove his pony and cart just a few minutes too late.
I have told you that Mrs. Mortimer, one of the women who lived in the court, had, while standing at her gate, watched the furtive figure of a man steal away in the darkness. She then went indoors. The cosmopolitan choir in the club-room across the way was still singing lustily.
The pony swung through the familiar gateway without checking its pace, but it had proceeded only a few yards along the court when it stopped so suddenly that Mr. Dienschitz was nearly thrown to the ground.
The driver was amazed. The pony was quiet and not in the habit of shying. He got down from the cart and, taking the animal's head, endeavoured to lead it forward, but it edged nervously over to the left.
Realizing now that there must be something to account for the animal's strange behaviour, Mr. Dienschitz strained his eyes in an effort to penetrate the inky darkness.
What was that against the wall on the right?
All he could see was an indefinable mass, but he was certain it had not been there when he had left the court earlier in the day. He moved forward, prodded the object with his stick. Something about the feel of the thing made him shudder. He struck a match. The flickering glare showed up a woman lying in a pool of blood.
" The Ripper!" was Mr. Dienschitz's instinctive cry, as he hurried towards the rear entrance to the Working Men's Club calling for help.
His cries caused the singing to cease, and a moment later one of the men, bolder than his fellows, came out with a lighted candle. Together the men stooped over the body as it lay face downwards, the head lying in the little gutter which ran close to the wall. The woman's throat had been deeply gashed.
There had been no mutilation. The explanation seems simple. Jack the Ripper had been disturbed by the arrival of the steward. He had heard the coming of the pony and cart, when he had had time only to kill, and so, observed, but unsuspected by Mrs. Mortimer, he slunk away in the darkness later to claim another life.
In less time than it takes to tell the court was a mass of frightened, gesticulating foreigners from the club, augmented by white-faced men and women from the cottages.
" It's the Ripper. The Ripper's been here," were the cries in a babel of tongues.
The police were quickly on the spot. They had, in fact, never been far away. Then came Dr. Phillips. He found the body quite warm.
Poor, pathetic thing ! Just another unfortunate of the streets whose pinched face and shabby clothing spoke plainly enough of struggling poverty.
The woman's check scarf had been pulled tightly around her neck, while pinned to her black dress was a faded white rose. In one hand she was holding a little bag.
Traces of prettiness remained in her face, and there must have been a time when she had been exceedingly proud of her curly black hair.
The police lost no time in beginning their investigations. Immediately every member of the club who had been present that night was sought out and questioned. Statements, were taken too, from all the residents of the little cottages which lined one side of the court. In this way there came to light the experience of Mrs. Mortimer, which showed how narrow on that occasion had been the Terror's escape. Hundreds of police then began one of the most intensive man-hunts ever known, but even as this force was being marshalled, the Ripper, with mocking nonchalance, was striking again. The second murder that night in Mitre Square was the boldest thing he ever did.
Think of the circumstances. The man had been disturbed-almost caught-in Berners Street. The ordinary criminal would have been intent only on getting safely to his own home.
Not so the Whitechapel murderer.
Instead he made his way to Mitre Square which stands just inside the City of London boundary, at the back of Katherine Free Church - a walk of some eight minutes - to find another victim.
Mitre Square is small as a square, but very much larger in area than the court in Berners Street. Moreover, even in those days, it was well lit. On three sides it was flanked by large warehouses, and on the fourth by two dwelling-houses.
Ironically enough, a police officer lived in one of the houses. He had gone to bed at midnight, worn out by a long day of Ripper hunting, and was doubtless fast asleep by the time the murder was committed, almost under his own window.
The square lies close to Aldgate and Houndsditch, and is fairly near both Middlesex Street (Petticoat Lane) and Dorset Street.
I suppose Mitre Square is very little different to-day from what it was in 1888, I do not know, for since I left Whitechapel I have avoided the. scenes of the Ripper murders as I would a plague. Enough of those terrible scenes remain in my memory without seeking to recall any incident which may have been forgotten.
Even in the early hours of Sunday morning the neighbourhood was by no means deserted. Traders were already preparing for the Sunday market in Petticoat Lane and using the short cut through the square to the city. But it was a police officer and not a market worker who discovered the crime.
P.C. Watkins' beat compelled him to pass through Mitre Square every fourteen minutes. At 1.30 he saw nothing abnormal. He stayed a moment or so to talk to George Norris, a night watchman at one of the warehouses, and it was from Norris that he learned that police whistles had been sounded " up Whitechapel way "
" Must be the Ripper," conjectured Norris, as the constable went on his way.
Fourteen minutes later P.C. Watkins was back in the square again. This time his eyes caught the dim outline of something against the wall near the carriage way entrance. He turned his lantern on to the strange object, his blood turning cold at the fearful sight his lamp rays revealed.
Dashing to the door of the warehouse at which Norris was on duty, he cried, "For God's sake, mate, come to my assistance."
Norris came, and was sickened by what he saw.
Next day London awoke to the staggering news that Jack the Ripper, in a district infested with police officers, had come to claim two victims and make yet another sensational escape.
The Mitre Square crime brought the City of London police more actively into the hunt, for the square came within their jurisdiction. It was, to date, the most shocking tragedy of all. The mutilations were frightful. The face was terribly disfigured by wounds.
This victim was just as shabbily dressed as her fellow in Berners Street.
She had been wearing a black apron. Part of this was missing. The torn portion was found later by a police-constable on the steps of a block of buildings in Goulston Street, nearby. It was covered with blood, and had obviously been used by the woman's assailant to wipe his bloodstained hands as he ran away.
On a wall close by this message had been written : " The Jews are the men who will not be blamed for nothing."
This message was rubbed out by someone.
Its destruction was certainly unfortunate. We could not afford to lose even the slenderest of clues. But I doubt if it made a lot of difference anyway. There was no reason, so far as I can see, why this particular message should have proved more useful than many others which Jack the Ripper was supposed to have written.
As I have said before, it is questionable whether these messages were the work of the murderer at all. Why should he fool around chalking things on walls when his life was imperilled by every minute he loitered?
Murderers do foolish things, I know, but such an action does not fit into the mental picture I have formed of the character of Jack the Ripper.
A criticism levelled at the police at this time was that following the Mitre Square murder there was little or no co-operation between the City and the Metropolitan police forces. This is sheer nonsense. The two forces worked amicably together in this as in thousands of other cases.
There was never the remotest reason for, one body of police to be jealous of the other.
Speaking from my own experience, I can only say that I always found both the detective and uniformed branches of the City police ready and willing to help. Their main purpose, as ours, was to prevent and detect crime.
Of the two women who died that Saturday night-or rather Sunday morning-the Mitre Square victim was the first to be identified. She was found to be a woman in the early forties, named Catherine Eddowes.
A strange thing is, I understand, that, less than half an hour before her fateful encounter with the Ripper in Mitre Square, Mrs. Eddowes was safely locked in a cell at Bishopsgate police station.
Earlier that day she had returned with a man from a hop-picking expedition, pawned some boots and spent the money in public-houses with the result that she was " taken inside " by a constable.
At one o'clock in the morning, by which time she had become normal once more, the gaoler set her free until such time as she would be required to appear before the magistrate on a " drunk and disorderly charge ".
" Good night," she called back to the gaoler, as she passed out into the deserted street and started to walk in the direction of Houndsditch.
Somewhere on that walk, presumably in the region of Mitre Square, she came face to face with the demon who was making his furtive escape from his crime at Berners Street.
Even when running away from a murder a few minutes old, Jack the Ripper stopped, spoke to the woman, gained her confidence, and a few seconds later had made possible a sixth notch on the handle of his knife.
More difficulty was experienced in establishing the identity of the Berners Street victim. She was claimed to be a widow named Elizabeth Stride, aged thirty-seven, a Swede who had married an English carpenter.
Mrs.. Stride was a woman with a tragic history. She had sunk low socially after her husband and two children had (so it was said) been drowned in the Thames disaster when the pleasure boat, Princess Alice, returning from a trip to Margate, collided with a collier off Blackwall, and sank with the loss of several hundred lives.
The police were satisfied, but on the Sunday evening there was a surprise development. Another claimant came forward, this time a woman. She pleaded tearfully to be allowed to see the body in the mortuary. Permission was given and, between hysterical outbursts, the woman declared emphatically that the dead woman was her sister.
Every Saturday, this woman said, she and her sister had been in the habit of meeting in Chancery Lane. The sister had been in impoverished circumstances, she said, and she used to give her two shillings every Saturday.
On this Saturday the sister had not kept the appointment, and this fact, coupled with a strange dream premonition, had made the woman suspicious that the murdered woman was her sister.
This story, which sounded plausible enough, was repeated to the Coroner at the inquest, with the result that there was the unprecedented situation of the dead woman being doubly identified. The problem remained unsolved when the inquest was adjourned.
But inquiries subsequently made by the police proved beyond all question of doubt that this second woman's convincing story was nothing but a tissue of lies.
The victim was undoubtedly Mrs. Stride.
On the Monday morning following the double murder, another postcard, purporting to have been written by the Ripper, was received. It ran:
I was not codding, dear old boss, when I gave you the tip. You'll hear about saucy Jack's work to-morrow. Double event this time. Couldn't finish straight off. Had not time to get ears for the police. Thanks for keeping letter back till I got to work again.
Jack the Ripper."
Two murders in a single night !
Panic became more widespread. Rumours became wilder. We worked harder than ever, but except for the fearful evidences of his coming the Ripper remained as phantom-like as ever.
ALTHOUGH in Jack the Ripper times I was only a young detective, I succeeded by industry and keenness in gaining the confidence of my superiors, with the result that I was trusted with many delicate inquiries which, in other circumstances, would have been given to an officer of higher rank.
One of my chief assets then-and, indeed, through the whole of my police career-was a splendid memory. I made notes, of course, sometimes lengthy ones as to what prisoners said on arrest, but it was rarely indeed that I made use of my notebook when giving evidence.
I have known police officers who would never dream of going into the witness-box in any important case without producing that bugbear to judges and counsel alike-the pocket-book.
Unfortunately, my dream as a young detective one day to stand in the witness-box and give evidence against Jack the Ripper, was never realized.
Once or twice my hopes were raised, only to be dashed, when the clue I was pursuing was falsified.
The Berners Street murder yielded a clue which, for a time, raised the hopes of us all. Our inquiries brought to light the important fact that a few minutes-or at any rate a very short time before her death Elizabeth Stride, or "Long Liz", as she was known to her intimates, had actually been seen in the company of a man.
This evidence was supplied by a man who kept a small fruit shop in Berners Street. His story was that in the early hours of that Sunday morning he had sold the couple some grapes.
The real value of the fruit vendor's information lay in the fact that he swore he had seen the woman's companion before and would recognize him if he saw him again.
Unfortunately his story was backed by a description of the man which could only be described as vague. It might have applied equally to thousands of men.
Then came dramatic corroboration of his story. In the little Berners Street court, quite close to the spot where the body was found, detectives searching every inch of the ground came upon a number of grape skins and stones.
The obvious deduction was that these were the remains of the grapes which Long Liz's " companion had bought at the fruit shop, and that she had probably been eating them right up to the moment of her death.
The only alternative - which hardly seemed feasible - was that at that time of the night - or early morning - Mrs. Stride had got rid of one man and sought the companionship of another.
And now comes what to every police officer engaged on the case was the most maddening incident of the whole Ripper mystery.
A few days after the murder the shopkeeper actually saw the man to whom he had sold the grapes pass his shop.
He knew that this man was suspected of being Jack the Ripper.
Tragedy of tragedies, he let the opportunity of catching him slip by. He made no attempt to follow the suspect. He did not even have the presence of mind to dash with the information to the nearest constable. There he stood in his shop, while the mystery man boarded a tramcar and disappeared.
There was another man in the shop. To him he mentioned his suspicions when it was too late.
The shopkeeper said afterwards that he was afraid to leave his shop.
The moment the shopman's story reached the ears of the police, scores of officers were immediately put on the new scent. It was too late. Jack the Ripper, if indeed it was he, had once more vanished into thin air.
But was he Jack the Ripper? This is a question none can now answer. One can, however, ask how it came about that a man, who had shown himself to be a master of cunning, should have fallen into the elementary error of risking recognition by passing so soon again along that street and exposing himself to the view of a man whom he must have known linked him with one of his crimes.
It might also be asked why, on that occasion, the Ripper should have departed so far from custom as to purchase fruit for one of his intended victims?
Although it has never been seriously suggested that the Berners Street murder was not a Ripper crime. I confess I am puzzled. Frankly, I cannot reconcile the buying of those grapes in the company of the woman he was about to kill, and his reappearance a few days later in the same street, with the undoubted cleverness of the Ripper.
At that I must leave it, with the comment that if the shopkeeper was right in his second identification it was about the worst piece of luck the police could possibly have had. This was not the only bad luck we had. I used to feel at times that the fates were conspiring against us and doing everything to assist the man behind the problem which was daily deepening in horrifying mystery.
The police at this time were terribly buffeted. In some cases they did not receive the support they had a right to expect.
Let me tell a little story in this connexion. In an East End police court the magistrate was for some reason, lenient to all offenders charged with assaulting the police. He seemed to think that police evidence in such cases was coloured. His punishment was, almost without exception, a fine.
At length he was persuaded to pay two or three nightly visits in the company of police officers to some of the most vicious haunts in his judicial area. What he saw changed his views. There were no more fines in police assault cases, but imprisonment without the option.
I wish some of those other critics of the police at the time of the Ripper could have been compelled to spend a few nights in the districts in which it was our unenviable job to try to keep law and order. They, too, would have changed their opinions.
And now I approach a phase of the Ripper story which I would give a great deal even now to have expunged from my memory.
As my thoughts go back to Miller's Court, and what happened there, the old nausea, indignation and horror overwhelm me still.
The thing of which I am about to write happened nearly fifty years ago. Yet my mental picture of it remains as shockingly clear as though it were but yesterday.
It is all before me now. Jack the Ripper at his most devilish. No savage could have been more barbaric. No wild animal could have done anything so horrifying.
If I remember rightly it was between ten and eleven o'clock in the morning that I looked in at Commercial Street police station to get into touch with my superiors. I was chatting with Inspector Beck, who was in charge of the station, when a young fellow, his eyes bulging out of his head, came panting into the police station. The poor fellow was so frightened that for a time he was unable to utter a single intelligible word.
At last he managed to stammer out something about " Another one. Jack the Ripper. Awful. Jack McCarthy sent me."
Mr. McCarthy was well-known to us as a common lodging-house proprietor.
" Come along, Dew," said Inspector Beck, and gathering from the terrorized messenger that Dorset Street was the scene of whatever had happened, we made him our pilot, as we rushed in that direction, collecting as many constables as we could on the way.
The youth led us a few yards down Dorset Street from Commercial Street, until we came to a court approached by an arched passage, three feet wide and unlighted, in which there were two entrances to houses which fronted on Dorset Street. The place was known as Miller's Court.
Leaving the constables to block Dorset Street and to prevent anyone from leaving the court itself, Inspector Beck' and I proceeded through the narrow archway into what might be described as a small square. It was a cul-de-sac, flanked on all four sides by a few mean houses.
The house on the left of the passage was kept by McCarthy as a chandler's shop, while one room of the houses on the right was rented by a girl named Marie Kelly.
McCarthy's messenger was by this time able to tell a more or less coherent story. He told us that some of the neighbours had become alarmed at the non-appearance that morning of Kelly. They had spoken about it to McCarthy, and he had sent the youth to find her.
The door of her room was locked, but the lad looked through a broken pane of glass in the only window in the room which faced the wider part of the court, and had seen something which froze the blood in his veins and sent him helter-skelter to the police station.
The room was pointed out to me.. I tried the door. It would not yield. So I moved to the window, over which, on the inside, an old coat was hanging to act as a curtain and to block the draught from the hole in the glass.
Inspector Beck pushed the coat to one side and peered through the aperture. A moment later he staggered back with his face as white as a sheet.
"For God's sake, Dew," he cried. " Don't look."
I ignored the order, and took my place at the window.
When my eyes had become accustomed to the dim light I saw a sight which I shall never forget to my dying day.
The whole horror of that room will only be known to those of us whose duty it was to enter it. The full details are unprintable.
There was a table just beneath the window. On the bed, which was drawn obliquely across the small room, was all that remained of a good-looking and buxom young woman.
There was little left of her, not much more than a skeleton. Her face was terribly scarred and mutilated.
All this was horrifying enough, but the mental picture of that sight which remains most vividly with me is the poor woman's eyes. They were wide open, and seemed to be staring straight at me with a look of terror.
Inspector Beck quickly recovered from his shock and sent messages to the chief station by quick-running constables. From there the messages were promptly relayed by telegraph to Scotland Yard.
Obviously nothing could be done for the woman, but Dr. Phillips was sent for as a matter of form and was soon on the spot.
Officers were sent in all directions to make inquiries and interrogate any and every person likely to be able to give information.
No attempt was made by us to break into the room.
It was deemed advisable to wait until the higher-placed officers arrived on the scene before anything was touched. This was essential if bloodhounds were to be used, although how bloodhounds could be expected to track a criminal in a place like London, I have never been able to under stand.
However that may be, the Commissioner of Police and other high officers were soon on the spot, and one of the first decisions was that bloodhounds should be tried.
They never were, however, for the owner of the hounds decided that it would be utterly futile. That one can readily understand, considering that by this time thousands of people had used the adjoining thoroughfares. Moreover, it was a drizzling morning.
Again the critics of the police seized upon this to castigate the officers in charge of the case. It was said that bloodhounds should have been used and that there was unnecessary delay.
I flatly contradict the suggestion of delay. There was none, and the only reason for not using the bloodhounds was that they could not possibly have helped.
It would have been a different matter if bloodhounds had been available, and could have been put immediately on the trail. The experiment would then have been worth trying, though I doubt if it would have met with any success, as the crime was already several hours old.
There are differences of opinion as to the actual time of the Marie Kelly murder, but I have always inclined to the view that it took place somewhere between midnight and 2 a.m.
As soon as the chief officers arrived they decided to force the door which, if I remember rightly, had an automatic lock.
I followed the others into the room. The sight that confronted us was indescribable, infinitely more horrifying than what I had seen when peeping through the broken pane of glass into the room's semi-darkness.
I had seen most of the other remains. They were sickening enough in all conscience. But none of the others approached for bestial brutality the treatment of the body of poor Marie Kelly, whom I had known well by sight as a pretty, buxom girl.
The effect on me as I entered that room was as if someone had given me a tremendous blow in the stomach. Never in my life have I funked a police duty so much as I funked this one.
Whatever the state of the killer's mind when he committed the other murders, there cannot be the slightest doubt that in that room in Miller's Court he became a frenzied, raving madman.
With the state of that room in my mind, I cannot see how the murderer could have avoided being covered from head to foot with blood.
Some of these traces must have remained when he reached his home or his lodgings. Yet no one came forward to voice the suspicions which such a spectacle must have aroused. Proof positive to my mind that the Ripper was shielded by someone.
The room was on the ground floor and about 12 ft. by 10 ft. It was self-contained. A sort of one-room flat. The only door in use was that by which we had entered. There was another, leading to the upper part of the house, but this had been nailed up. So that the murderer could only have entered and retreated by that narrow archway leading from Dorset Street.
There was very little furniture, a bed, a table, a chair or two, all in a bad state of repair.
But Marie could scarcely have expected more. The rent worked out at only 6d. a night. Even this sum had proved too much for her. She was several weeks in arrears.
The atmosphere of the room was stifling, and this in spite of the broken window.
There was no fire in the grate, but there were signs that there had been a big blaze., For one thing, the kettle standing on the burnt-out fire had melted at the spout. Candles which had been used to light the room had been burned right down.
The girl's clothing had nearly all been cut from her body in the mad process of mutilation.
All these things I saw after I had slipped and fallen on the awfulness of that floor.
I HAVE told you about the eyes of Marie Kelly, wide-open and staring in death. To someone, those eyes suggested a possible clue.
There was at the time a wide-spread superstition that the retina of a murdered person's eyes would, if photographed, give a picture of the last person upon whom the victim looked.
I do not for a moment think that the police ever seriously expected the photograph of the murderer to materialize, but it was decided to try the experiment.
Several photographs of the eyes were taken by expert photographers with the latest type cameras.
The result was negative.
But the very fact that this forlorn hope was tried shows that the police, in their eagerness to catch the murderer, were ready to follow any clue and to adopt any suggestion, even at the risk of being made to look absurd.
The public, I fear, knows little of the many-sided activities of the police in bringing criminals to justice. It is impossible for them to know. So much that is done behind the scenes can never be revealed to the public.
Many get their ideas of police procedure from reading thrilling detective stories in which the criminal is always traced. And they overlook the fact that it is easy to unravel a plot which you yourself have created-a different matter altogether from starting, as the police have to do, the other way round.
It was very much a case of the other way round in the hunt for Jack the Ripper.
When, for instance, he left Miller's Court in the early hours of November 9th which way did he go?
There were several possibilities. He could have turned abruptly into Commercial Street and, crossing the road, soon found himself in a veritable maze of streets and courts. He could have made his way towards Aldgate, or he could, on leaving the court, have turned right, making for Wentworth Street and Petticoat Lane, and thence to the City.
It is idle now to speculate as to which direction he chose. The miracle is that he ran the gauntlet successfully, and escaped.
I have already referred briefly to the theory held in some quarters that the Ripper might have been a man so well known to the police, either because of his profession or his standing locally, that his immunity even from suspicion was assured.
This is a very plausible explanation-one of the most plausible of all-until one sets out to analyze it.
The big point which this suggestion overlooks is that hundreds of policemen of all ranks had been drafted to the East End from all parts of London. Local celebrities cut no ice with them, and would have been arrested just as promptly as anyone else had their actions been at all suspicious.
Constables going on duty had very definite instructions. They were told to pull up and search any man whose actions raised the slightest doubt in their minds, and, if the answer given were not satisfactory, to bring such men to the police station while inquiries about them were made.
Since 1888, many people have written on the subject of the Ripper's uncanny escapes, some of them putting forward their own theories. I am less presumptuous.
I was on the spot, actively engaged throughout the whole series of crimes. I ought to know something about it. Yet I have to confess I am as mystified now as I was then by the man's amazing elusiveness.
England had never known anything like it before; I pray she never will again.
Equally mystifying was the man's power to quell the natural fear in the minds of women, and especially of the type to whom his coming meant an unspeakable death.
There was no woman in the whole of Whitechapel more frightened of Jack the Ripper than Marie Kelly.
The day of her death was the Lord Mayor's Show, London's greatest pageant of the year. She had planned to see it and was looking forward to the spectacle with all the enthusiasm of a girl born and bred in the country.
Just the night before, Marie had been fearfully discussing the killer of her kind with Lizzie Albrook, a nineteen years-old friend.
"This will be the last Lord Mayor's Show I shall see, said Marie tearfully. I can't stand it any longer. This Jack the Ripper business is getting on my nerves. I have made up my mind to go home to my mother. It is safer there."
Marie was Irish born, but her mother at this time was living in Wales.
Poor Marie !
When the Lord Mayor's Show swept through the streets of the City the next day, she was lying in that little back room in Miller's Court.
News of this fresh Ripper visitation came to the crowds cheering the Lord Mayor's Show. The cheers died in their throats; the smiles left their faces,
"Have you heard the news?" one whispered to the other. "The Ripper's been again. Dorset Street, they say."
Thousands forgot the Lord Mayor's Show and flocked with morbid curiosity to Dorset Street, but this time they were doomed to disappointment. Past experiences had forewarned the police and barricades at each end of the street prevented the mob from close approach to the scene of the Ripper's first indoor murder.
Meanwhile, in Miller's Court itself, there was something approaching panic. Marie had been well-known to every resident and, sunny of nature, had been very popular.
Here was a crime different from the others. The circumstances of it held out bright possibilities. Surely someone must have seen the girl and her companion in a little court in which every person knew the other's business, At last it seemed likely that we should get some information pointing to the identity, or at any rate, to the appearance of the man we had hunted so long.
There was no lack of information, but as so often happens, when the various statements had been sorted and sifted they were so contradictory as to be well-nigh valueless.
Of Marie Kelly herself, very few intimate details were known. She had occupied her room, which she rented from John McCarthy, the chandler, for ten months. During the greater part of that time she had been very friendly with a young man.
A short time previously the couple had had a tiff, all because Marie, in a fit of Irish generosity, had allowed an unfortunate to use her room. This upset with her boy friend may have to some extent accounted for the girl's despondency on the eve of her death.
That evening, as I have said, Lizzie Albrook found her in tears. After that she remained in her room for two hours and then, as though to drown her sorrows, went drinking in the local public-houses. This was unusual, for normally Marie was a sober girl,
The first information led the police to believe the girl was last seen alive, except by her slayer, at midnight, when she was seen by a neighbour, Mary Cox, walking in the direction of her home.
Marie was not alone. With her was a man described by Mary Cox as " short, stout, bearded, shabbily dressed in a longish coat and billycock hat, and carrying a pot of ale in one hand ".
Mrs. Cox followed the couple through the passage leading to the court and called out: " Good night, Marie," as they were about to enter Kelly's room.
The girl looked round, recognized Mary Cox, and called back, " Good night. I am going to have a little song." Both then disappeared through the doorway.
Was the man in the billycock hat Jack the Ripper?
In spite of contradictory evidence which came to light later, and in spite of a departure from his method of swift and sudden attack, I think he was, always providing Mary Cox was correct in what she said.
A little later, more than one neighbour heard Marie singing blithely, if a little unsteadily. The singing continued for fully an hour.
Then came silence, a silence which synchronized, if my theory is correct, with the transformation of the quiet-looking bearded man who had mysteriously won the girl's confidence, into the inhuman devil his previous deeds had shown him to be.
Marie Kelly died swiftly then, but not, if the story of terror in her eyes is accepted, before she had realized who her visitor was.
The description given by Mary Cox was circulated immediately. This information gave us for the first time something really tangible to work upon. We knew what the man we were after looked like. We knew the kind of clothes he wore and, most important of all, we knew that he was bearded.
Hopes ran higher than they had done at any time since the first visitation. The police were inspired to even greater efforts and the public, buoyed up with the expectancy of an early arrest, forgot their fears.
The people of the East End were horrified by such revolting details of the crime as were revealed, but hope had taken the place of panic as the prevailing emotion - hope that at long last the district would be freed from its mystifying terror.
Alas, this was not to be.
Within a short time, other information was obtained by the police which seemed to blow sky high the theories they had based upon the evidence of Mary Cox.
The new evidence was supplied by another woman, named Mrs. Caroline Maxwell, wife of the deputy at No. 14 Dorset Street, which adjoined Miller's Court. She claimed to know Marie Kelly well, and to have seen her alive only two hours before her body was discovered.
Imagine the sensation this story caused. If true it put an entirely new complexion upon the whole case.
If Mrs. Maxwell had been a sensation-seeker-one of those women who live for the limelight-it would have been easy to discredit her story. She was not. She seemed a sane and sensible woman, and her reputation was excellent.
She stated that at eight o'clock on the Friday morning she was going into Mr. McCarthy's chandler's shop, when she saw Marie standing in the passage leading to the court. The girl looked ill, and Mrs. Maxwell went over to her and asked if anything was the matter.
" I feel bad," she quoted Marie as saying. " I was drinking last night. It has made me ill."
She then asked Mrs. Maxwell if she could suggest anything she could take to make her feel better. The women exchanged a few more words; then the girl reentered her room.
Mrs. Maxwell repeated this evidence at the inquest, and told her story with conviction.
In one way at least her version fitted into the facts as known. We knew that Marie had been drinking the previous night, and, as this was not a habit of hers, illness the next morning was just what might have been expected.
Then followed other information which further shook the police reconstruction of the crime.
The informant this time was a young man name d George Hutchison, who declared that he had seen Kelly at 2 a.m. in Dorset Street. She had been drinking. He spoke to her, and she confessed that she was " broke ".
A few minutes later he saw her again. This time she was in the company of a man, and the two were walking in the direction of Miller's Court.
This man had no billycock hat and no beard. He was in fact the exact opposite in appearance of the man seen by Mrs. Cox.
Hutchison described him as well-dressed, wearing a felt hat, a long, dark astrakhan collared coat and dark spats. A turned-up black moustache gave him a foreign appearance.
But I know from my experience that many people, with the best of intentions, are often mistaken, not necessarily as to a person, but as to date and time. And I can see no other explanation in this case than that Mrs. Maxwell and George Hutchison were wrong.
Indeed, if the medical evidence is accepted, Mrs. Maxwell could not have been right. The doctors were unable, because of the terrible mutilations, to say with any certainty just when death took place, but they were very emphatic that the girl could not have been alive at eight o'clock that morning.
And if Mrs. Maxwell was mistaken, is it not probable that George Hutchison erred also? This, without reflecting in any way on either witness, is my considered view. I believe that the man of the billycock hat and beard was the last person to enter Marie Kelly's room that night and was her killer. Always assuming that Mrs. Cox ever had seen her with a man.
The days passed. Jack the Ripper remained as mythical as ever so far as the police were concerned. The only certain evidence of his existence was his fearful crimes.
The Miller's Court murder made it more obvious than ever that the murderer was being shielded. This time, as I have indicated, he must have returned to his home or his lodgings with the evidences of his handiwork still upon him.
In order to allay the fears of those who may have possessed knowledge, but were afraid to come forward with it, the officers in charge of the investigations took an unusual step. This striking notice was posted up outside every police station
PARDON.-Whereas on November 8 or 9 in Miller's Court, Dorset Street, Spitalfields, Marie Janet Kelly was murdered by some person or persons unknown, the Secretary of State will advise the granting of Her Majesty's pardon to any accomplice (not being a person who contrived or actually committed the murder) who shall give such information as shall lead to the discovery and conviction of the person or persons who committed the murder. (Signed). Charles Warren.
This offer was construed by many people into a confession of failure. It was nothing of the kind. The step was taken after careful consideration with the definite object of securing vital information which the police were convinced existed.
The effort failed, like all the others, but it was none the less commendable for that.
ALTHOUGH many people may not agree with me, I believe that the Miller's Court outrage was the last murder ever committed by Jack the Ripper.
There were, I know, other baffling East End murder mysteries which remained unsolved, but I have never been satisfied that they were the handiwork of the demon Jack.
People in those days had what may be described as the Jack the Ripper complex. Immediately a murder and mutilation was reported, whether in Whitechapel or in any other part of the country, they jumped to the conclusion that he was the culprit.
In other parts of the country, there was always the subconscious fear that sooner or later Jack the Ripper would leave Whitechapel and pay a visit to their particular neighbourhood.
The police were never misled by alarms elsewhere. In Whitechapel our inquiries went on and on. The chiefs from Scotland Yard continued to make their headquarters at Leman Street Police Station, battling with their problem long after the public had assumed that all hope of catching the fiend had been abandoned.
One of the strongest inferences to be deduced from the crimes was that the man we were hunting was probably a sexual maniac. This angle of investigation was pursued relentlessly. Inquiries were made at asylums all over the country, including the Criminal Lunatic Asylum at Broadmoor, with the object of discovering whether a homicidal lunatic had been released as cured about the time the Ripper crimes commenced. No useful evidence was obtained.
Anonymous letters and postcards continued to roll in, magnifying our work without providing a single valuable clue.
One such letter, bearing the Portsmouth postmark, received by Mr. Saunders, the magistrate of the Thames Police Court, was typical. It ran:
" Dear Boss,-It is no use for you to look for me in London because I'm not there. Don't trouble yourself about me until I return, which will not be very long. I like the work too well to leave it alone. Oh, it was such a jolly job the last one. I had plenty of time to do it properly in. Ha, ha, ha. You think it is a man with a black moustache. Ha, ha, ha. When I have done another one you can try and catch me again. So good-bye, dear boss, till I return.
Jack the Ripper."
Curiously enough, a few days after the receipt of this letter a boy was attacked and murdered in the Portsmouth district. A clasp knife was found near the body. The dead boy's companions stated that they had been accosted by a tall dark man. The others ran away, leaving the victim with the stranger.
This crime, as may be expected, following so swiftly upon the letter, created a real Ripper scare in the neighbourhood.
Scotland Yard officers went down and quickly satisfied themselves that the crime had no connexion at all with the Whitechapel horrors. But it was not so easy to convince the public, especially as the mystery remained unsolved.
About the same time, too, a little girl was outraged and murdered in Somerset. Again Jack the Ripper was blamed, rumour even going so far as to suggest that he had left Whitechapel for a murder and mutilation of the country.
All this panic was unnecessary. The murderer was caught and executed.
Then came a Ripper scare in the north of England, where a boy of eight years of age died as a result of a number of vicious knife wounds.
The boy's unclothed body was found near some stables, his clothes in a bundle close by. He had been missing two days.
The police were able to rule Jack the Ripper out at once on the ground that the man who committed the crime must have had an intimate knowledge of the district. The boy had been killed elsewhere and the body deposited at the spot where it was found by a policeman on his beat, several hours after death.
Murders continued to take place in London. In December, 1888, a woman was found dead in strange circumstances in Poplar, and for a time Ripper fears were needlessly revived in the East End.
Later there was some doubt as to whether this was a murder at all. It was first assumed that the woman had been strangled, but there was afterwards a conflict of opinion on this, one doctor declaring that the woman had died a natural death.
In any case, the only relation the mystery bore to the Whitechapel horrors was the fact that the woman was of the unfortunate class.
She had actually been driven out of Whitechapel by her dread of Jack the Ripper.
The trouble was that people's minds were so dominated by Jack the Ripper thoughts and fears, that they sought to fasten upon him every murder no matter how, where or when it was committed.
Many diabolical murders were committed in the Whitechapel district after the Miller's Court drama. Several of these are still ascribed to the Ripper. People seem to forget that there were plenty of similar crimes in Whitechapel long before Jack the Ripper was ever heard of.
One of these so-called Ripper murders took place on 17th July, 1889, nearly a year after hapless Marie Kelly met her death. The scene of the tragedy was Castle Alley, a notorious place just off the " Haymarket ", Whitechapel High Street, and quite close to Dorset street.
The victim was Alice Mackenzie, a charwoman, who had come to the East End of London from Peterborough, and lived in a common lodging-house.
Castle Alley was well lighted, but it was nevertheless just such a place as Jack the Ripper himself might have chosen. The place was little frequented, and many of the houses were partly demolished and fronted by hoardings.
About 12.30 (midnight) a constable patrolling his beat found the woman lying near a lamp-post. Thinking she was the worse for drink, he shook her. It was then he discovered that she was dead. Her throat had been cut, and, more significant as a pointer to the Ripper, her clothing had been disarranged.
Dr. Phillips was sent for and came to the conclusion that the fatal wound had been inflicted from behind.
To explain the absence of mutilation, it was suggested that the man had been disturbed and had decamped.
Underneath the body was found a brightly polished farthing. This in the dim light might easily have been mistaken for a half-sovereign, and the theory held was that Mackenzie had been lured to her death by the offer of a gold coin.
This was probably the true explanation, for another woman came forward to say that the offer of a similar coin had been made to her, but she had discovered the trick and had run away. Her description of the man was " a dark foreigner, speaking good English ".
Jack the Ripper had never been in the habit of decoying his victims with bright farthings. Nor had he ever made the mistake of allowing one of his intended victims to escape.
It is true that this murderer succeeded in getting away, but so have many others.
I do not think this was a Ripper crime any more than I think he had anything to do with the murder of another woman whose body was found in the foundations of a huge new building on the Thames Embankment, now known as New Scotland Yard. The site was chosen originally for an opera house, but plans were changed, and the building became the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police and the C.I.D.
One other East End crime which comes within the category of Ripper possibilities I will touch briefly upon.
In February, 1891, the body of a woman was found in Swallow Gardens, a place of evil repute not far from Leman Street Police Station. Close by ran the arches of the old London, Tilbury and Southend Railway. The arches were used as warehouses. On the other side of the street were ramshackle houses tenanted by people of very doubtful character.
Badly lighted, it was indeed a place best avoided, though it was frequently used by perfectly respectable railwaymen.
A constable found the woman dying from throat injuries. A few minutes later she breathed her last. The alarm was given. The place was surrounded. Every house was searched.
The man had worked swiftly. Swallow Gardens had been patrolled a few minutes previously and nothing then was seen, either of him or of his victim. Again there was disarrangement of the clothing without mutilation, and again those who attributed the crime to the Ripper argued that he must have been disturbed.
The victim was later identified as Frances Coles, young and not bad looking, an unfortunate who lived in one of the many common lodging-houses in Spitalfields.
A man in whose company the woman had been seen was questioned and detained. He was released after he had satisfied the police that he had nothing to do with the crime.
There was great excitement. Ripper panic was revived. My view is that this was a false alarm. There was a tendency -and a natural enough tendency-for years for any violent murder which was not followed by a conviction to be laid at the Ripper's door.
One big question remains to be asked, but, I am afraid, not to be answered.
Who was Jack the Ripper?
I was closely associated with most of the murders. Yet I hesitate to express a definite opinion as to who or what the man may have been.
He may have been a doctor. He may have been a medical student. He may have been a foreigner. He may even have been a slaughterman, and so on.
Such speculation is little more than childish, for there is no evidence to support one view any more than another.
But this, I think, can safely be said. The man at times must have been quite mad. There can be no other explanation of those wicked mutilations. It may have been sex mania, blood lust, or some other form of insanity, but madness there certainly was.
Yet it is quite possible that Jack the Ripper was quite sane at all other times. There have been plenty of instances of this. Seemingly clever, cultured and normal people can be found in any lunatic asylum - even in Broadmoor - but they are none the less dangerous for that.
The late Dr. Forbes Winslow, an authority on mental diseases, gave it as his view that by the morning, the frenzy of insanity having passed, Jack the Ripper might not have been able to remember what he `had done.
With all due respect to the late doctor, I cannot agree with him. There is a big stumbling block to the acceptance of his theory. It is that the man who committed the Whitechapel murders had with him when he met his victims the weapon-and no ordinary weapon-with which the deeds were done. This surely suggests premeditation and indicates when he set out on his evil excursions it was with deliberate intent.
There was, too, more method about the Ripper than one would have expected in a man of the type described by Dr. Winslow. He always returned to the same locality; and on each occasion he chose his victim from the same class of women.
Various men who were hanged for subsequent murders, notably Neil Cream, came under the suspicion of the public, but there were never any real grounds for believing that any one of them had had anything to do with the Whitechapel crimes.
Many other theories have been held. Far be it from me to ridicule the most improbable of them. I saw so much that was uncanny during the reign of Ripper terror that it would be in keeping with the whole case were the most unlikely solution to be the correct one.
I cannot, however, refrain from asking why so many people, even to this day, cling to the opinion that the murderer must have been a doctor or a medical student.
I never thought he was.
There are many people besides doctors expert in the use of the knife. Why not a butcher, or a slaughterman, or even the proprietor of an East End stall?
Not even the rudiments of surgical skill were needed to cause the mutilations I saw.
But there was one thing about the mutilations which seems to have escaped general notice. They showed a graduating ferocity.
All of them were terrible, but the second was worse than the first and the third worse than the second, until the climax was reached in that terrible room in Miller's Court. And with that crime, or so it seems to me, even that seemingly insatiable monster was satisfied. He came back no more.
There is little doubt now that Jack the Ripper is dead. I often wonder what sort of an end he met-whether it was peaceful or whether he did develop into the stark, raving maniac he must have appeared at the moment of striking his victims down. Somehow I cannot picture such a man on a peaceful death bed.
One word more.
I took pleasure in nearly all my work as a police officer. Sometimes it was possible to find even a touch of humour.
There was neither pleasure nor humour in the part I played in the greatest crime drama of all time-the mystery of Jack the Ripper.